“You Can’t Edit What You Don’t Have”

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Writing for me is crazy. I can lie in bed and think up so many wonderful ideas for my novel that I want to get out of bed right there and then to go write them all out. But I don’t. I fall asleep, get up the next day and then struggle like hell to write even 500 words on it.

What’s the reason I struggle?

It’s basically because I think what I’m writing is clichéd, boring and unimaginative. It probably is, but it’s my first draft. So like everything in my life I Googled it. I wrote: “I think my writing is bad”. The search results brought up a few websites and I went to one that had that phrase in it. The writer had some reassuring tips on there; the greatest and most obvious one being:

“You can’t edit what you don’t have!” 

And you know, that’s right. My writing probably is quite shabby at the moment, but I’ve only just started out. There must be something there to work with, though. Like a sculpture — at first it’s just a big old lump of clay. But with lots of care and skill, it can become a real piece of art.

I really enjoy writing regularly now, but I feel disheartened and panicked, even, when I write such terrible prose. I guess I’ll just have to be patient with myself whilst I’m still sharpening my skills.

What do you do if you think your writing stinks? 

Do you have a mantra you live by?

Thanks for reading!

Photo Credit: Olivander via Compfight cc

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I’ve Got Nothing To Tell You.

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I have been writing this morning. A nice, but very time consuming 532 words added to my novel. I started at about 08:30am and finished at 10:30am. But to be fair, I had the TV on, too, so I was a little distracted.

Anyway, I thought I’d just add a little post to say how glad I am I stumbled upon Jeff Goins’ blog a few months back. His writing is so upbeat and positive, that it makes you believe you really can achieve your goals. It’s reassuring to know that Jeff has been where we all are now — at the beginning. He wasn’t always sure of what he was supposed to be doing, and it took him several years to realise that. And that’s one of my worries — how long might it take me to get to where I want to be? I’m now 26 years old I’m pretty sure that I want to write. It’s taken me over a decade to work that out. But in a way, I’m kind of thankful that’s all it took. You often hear stories of people in their 40’s and 50’s finally discovering their true vocations, and it saddens me that they probably spent a huge chunk of their lives wasted in a job they weren’t that interested in.

Another worry is now that I’ve found my calling, what do I do with it? Jeff knew he wanted to write, and he writes about writing. But what do I write about? I can muse and ramble about all sorts of things, but I don’t have anything specific to tell you all. As you may be aware, I’m currently writing a novel, but I doubt it will ever see the light of day.But… I could be wrong (I hope I am!).

I have an interest in animal welfare — especially the consumer side of the cruelty-free industry. If you were to visit my sister blog, BunnyKind, you’d see that I started it because I wanted to make people “cruelty-free” aware. But these topics, alongside vegetarianism etc are so stereotyped that people are immediately turned off. Nobody wants to be told what to do, and some find their lifestyle choices are under attack by people like me. I’ve not come across many people like it, but on occasion I’ll have people poke fun at my choice to be a vegetarian, simply in defence of their carnivorous lifestyle.

I’m not going to tell you “meat is murder” — it’s quite an inflammatory statement, and you probably know that the meat industry is nasty already. I think that people like to take sides. Heck, I’m pretty guilty of doing it myself.

The usual statements are: “I’m a meat-eater” or “I’m a vegetarian.” But you don’t exclusively eat meat, do you? And vegetarians, you don’t just eat lentils (I hate them), do you? Wouldn’t it be better if it was more like:

“Do you have a meat-free option?”

“Can I have more veggies than meat, please?

“Can I have more meat than veggies, please?”

It’s all about labelling, at the end of the day. And I was taught not to label. I don’t like to force my views upon people and I expect the same treatment from others. So perhaps we should remove the line that separates omnivores and vegetarians? Maybe we might learn something from each other.

Perhaps I do have something to tell the world…

Photo Credit: angietorres via Compfight cc

The “Jade” Effect Strikes Again.

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I feel bad and I must confess about it. I have been very lazy over the past three or four days and I haven’t written. I’ve done that thing where you think: I’ll do it later. I’ll do it later. Oh, it’s 10:30pm, I’ll do it tomorrow.

I’m really disappointed in myself, but I also expected it to happen. I’m great at following instructions, but when I’m left to my own devices I fail stupendously. That’s the annoying thing, you see. I love writing. I can write about almost anything with ease, but when nobody is telling me what and when to write I just don’t bother.

I decided once I finished the My 500 Words challenge, I would get to grips with the novel I started. And I have started it quite well. But the other day I got stuck. The dialogue went stale and the storyline staggered a bit. Then I started hesitating about writing it. So instead of pushing on through, I did some decorating, got drunk, had a hangover, napped a lot and then did some family history…. Anything but write. The feeling of hesitation got worse and worse — like the feeling of unfinished homework that’s due tomorrow.

I got up early this morning specifically to write. I sat down at around 7:30am after faffing about and wrote about 300 words. Then I fell back to sleep until 11:00am! This is no good, I thought. But looking at the text in front of me I can only see that my dialogue is stalling at a very important point in the story. And it’s frustrating me like hell.

So, I need to push through this, yes. I mustn’t let my old habits creep back in, because I’ll never get to where I want to be. I saw an excellent quote this morning (which was kind of why I got up to write) on A Writer’s Path. It was by J.R.R Tolkien:

“It is the job that is never started that takes the longest to finish.”

Christ, that’s what I’m doing, I thought. How will I ever finish it if I don’t even start the damn thing?

On a side note, I’m subscribed to A Writer’s Path and it’s a pretty cool website. Every few days I’ll receive a little writing quote like that one that might spur me on a few hundred words more. It’s also full of pretty useful writing tips — please have a look for yourself!

Then I worry that I’m writing a load of old rubbish — what if anyone who reads it thinks it’s trash? But then I think: there are millions of books in the world and not all of them are great? Maybe I should just write to write and not write to be read.

I’m sorry to clog your day with a boring rant about not writing, dear reader, but I feel I must apologise to you and myself for being a lazy cow. But, today is a new day — you can witness that I have now written my 500 words for today (actually 800 including my novel!), so I’m back on track.

Thanks for reading my rant! Have a great day, everyone.

A Harris Lebus Wardrobe Made Me Nosey.

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It all started with my Grandad’s death. Ben and I had to go round his house and collect anything that we wanted to take because if not, it would be thrown in a skip. His children had taken what they were left in his will and it was down to the grandchildren to take whatever else was left. Well, there are only two grandchildren in close(ish) proximity to his house — my cousin and me. My cousin lives very close, but has a tiny house. So that just left me, then. It felt very odd to rummage through someone else’s belongings — very interesting — but quite uncomfortable.

We trudged up the stairs and into his old bedroom. In there stood a dark wardrobe and a matching vanity unit. I remembered my mother telling me about them when I was younger, but had never really thought much about them. Thinking they must be pretty old, Ben and I decided that we should take them. It took us over an hour to work out how to get such a huge wardrobe through a tiny door frame and then down a narrow set of stairs. That wardrobe would not fit any which way, and it was only after we discovered it unscrewed and came in half that we got it out of the house.

Why am I rambling on about a wardrobe? Well, it got me thinking. Who did it belong to? How old was it?

I spoke to my mum who said it, along with the vanity unit, a chest of drawers and a bed was given to her grandmother and grandfather as a wedding gift from her great-grandmother. They got married in 1912 which meant at the time it was 100 years old. It sparked my imagination and I wondered what kind of clothes went in that wardrobe and what cosmetics sat on the vanity unit. A hundred years of history sat in my spare room and I knew very little about the people who owned it all.

I began asking my parents about our family history and came away with a fair bit of knowledge. I now know that it all belonged to a couple called Alice and Leonard. They lived at 55 Winnock Road in Colchester and had three sons (one of which is my Grandad). Alice’s mother and father, Sabina and Joseph bought the furniture for her and Leonard’s wedding present. I also found out that after they married in 1912, Leonard would have gone to war. He served in the Balkans and thankfully made it back.

So I’ve now gone right down the rabbit hole and can’t get back. I’ve signed up for Ancestry.co.uk, meaning there’ll be much for family history to discover. When I was younger, my dad took it up and I told him he shouldn’t have started it until he’d retired — I guess a teenager just wouldn’t find it so enthralling to chase your ancestors around a metaphorical tree.

I now have most of the Harris Lebus bedroom set in my spare bedroom (the chest of drawers ended up being thrown away because it deteriorated) and it looks very handsome.

Thanks for reading!

The photo above is Leonard and Alice with their first son, also named Leonard (born 1913).

Memory #1

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I am laying in my cot, beneath a window. The window is to the right of me, and a doorway is to the left of me. It’s night time and there is a thunderstorm in progress. Lightning flashes through the curtains. I believe they are a blue colour. There is a light coming through the doorway and the door is open.

What you’ve just read is what I interpret as my earliest memory. I’m not sure if I made it up, if I was told about it, or it actually was my first memory, but that’s what I think of when I’m asked.

The human brain is pretty amazing and I’m often astounded at its abilities. Just the other day I caught a whiff of someone’s perfume; it instantly evoked a memory of my mother and a particular holiday that we had been on. I asked the person if it was YSL’s Rive Gouche perfume, to which she replied in amazement: “How did you know that? Not many people have heard of it”. Well, I knew because my mother bought some in the duty-free section at the airport. She wore it all through the holiday, and I now associate that holiday with that perfume. The crazy thing is, we went on that holiday when I was about seven. That’s nearly two decades ago. My brain has managed to keep that link for all those years.

I can’t tell you how old I was when that first memory was recorded or even if it really happened. But I’d like to think it did. What was your first memory? How old were you? I’d love to know.

Thanks for reading!

My 500 Words — The End Of The Beginning.

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Today is the last day of the My 500 Words challenge! And I’m kind of sad that I won’t wake up every morning to a friendly email telling me what my prompt is. I truly have enjoyed doing it and I really think it’s set my mind to write every day. Before, thinking about writing every day made me panic. Images of me sitting at my laptop for hours and hours ran through my head and I really didn’t think it could be possible without donating a large chunk of your day to it.

One day, whilst furiously procrastinating, I came across Jeff Goins and started to read his blog. He seemed really upbeat and positive towards writing. If you want to be a writer, then you just need to write, he said. Sounds simple enough, and really, it’s true. I just have to show up every day. And that’s where my downfall was (and is) with almost everything I started. The thirty day challenge seemed a bit daunting at first, but once I’d actually sat down and wrote 500 words, I realised that it had in fact only taken me forty minutes. Hardly the large chunk of my day I was expecting it to take.

So, knowing that it was a very achievable goal, I carried on and enjoyed the ride. Following the prompts has given me a variety of topics to write about and has even brought back some forgotten memories! I was able to complete every prompt except one (but I did write 500 words somewhere else) and I managed to write every single day, without fail. This is an amazing feat for me, because I have a terrible habit of losing interest in everything I start.

I once started training to run non-stop for 5km. I downloaded a heap of pod-casts and went through them three times a week. It was meant to build you up from walking/jogging on and off for thirty seconds right up to jogging all the way to 5km. I did really well and almost finished that damn training when I suddenly got bored of running, and gave it up. And that’s basically the story of my life so far. I start things, and then I get bored. So I give up. That’s why I’m pretty proud of myself for actually seeing this challenge through. It’s not often I do that.

This isn’t the end of my 500 words, though. I’m going to keep at it — not necessarily on my blog, but most definitely on my novel. I know that even when I don’t feel like writing, I just have to show up. It will come, and I’ll get results if I just open the page and start typing. I can’t thank Jeff Goins enough for making me realise that writing isn’t so scary. I feel quite confident about my writing future now because it’s just a matter of putting a small amount of time to one side. It’s turning off the TV, putting the phone away, and just giving that blank page an hour of your time.

If you want to know more about the My 500 Words Challenge (and you should), please visit Jeff’s website, here.

Thanks for reading and following my journey to better a better writing life!

My 500 Words — Watching The World Turn.

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When I was little I spent a lot of time on my own. My mum worked nights and my dad worked shifts, so while he was at work, my mum was in bed. Being an only child, I got used to my own company and developed a big imagination. I can remember watching a film one afternoon; the name escapes me, but it was about two kids that wanted to go into space together. Somewhere in the film I saw them flying. Wow, I thought. I bet if I tried hard enough, I could learn to fly. It seemed so uncomplicated — why had I never thought of doing it before? Trotting outside, I found a suitable platform from which I could launch myself — the blue, plastic fold-away picnic table. I remember it was a lovely day, probably late afternoon. I stood tall on top of the table and looked up to the sky. This was going to be easy, I thought. Taking a deep breath and raising my arms, I jumped. I flapped as hard as I could, but for some reason unbeknownst to me, I just landed back on the patio. Over and over again, I tried. Looking back now, I wonder what my neighbours must have thought of me flapping about in the garden.

Another childhood memory, or thought, I suppose, was my perception of the clouds. It only occurred to me about a year ago that I had thought when you saw clouds moving, you were seeing the actual world turning. I would lay on my back in the garden on a bright summer day watching the world turn. Sometimes it moved faster and sometimes hardly at all. And when there were no clouds, you couldn’t tell at all! I must tell you that I didn’t think that into my late twenties, but I remember thinking it as a child. I think I was staring out at the clouds one day and, you know how it is, a little memory just popped into my head. I love it when that happens.

So, why am I telling you about these childhood memories? It’s all about innocence. The innocence of a child is a lovely thing, isn’t it? I have yet to have any offspring, and have had little to do with children in my life, but I imagine seeing your child’s eyes light up when half the mince pie and the glass of milk have gone is amazing. It’s like the John Lewis Christmas ad — it’s the mum’s face that gets me at the end. It’s a look of sheer joy and amazement at how much her little boy can love a stuffed penguin. To him, Monty is as real as he is.

As a little girl I carried a little stuffed lion, called Moe. I loved him to pieces and took him everywhere. He was my treasure and I still hope that one day I’ll find him again. Childhood innocence is a funny thing, and I think we could all benefit from bringing a bit of it back into our lives every now and again. What a life it would be: full of excitement, anticipation, joy, and having the unfaltering love of a stuffed lion called Moe.

 

Thanks for reading!

My 500 Words — Getting In The Habit.

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Today is a free day — but if I’m honest, I had one of those yesterday. I got so carried away with researching my family history that I completely forgot to do my writing prompt. Luckily, I’d decided to write about 650 words in my novel, so I had written 500 words.

Today, I got sucked into researching again, and sat in my bed until 11:00am, building my family tree. I’ve managed to go back to the 1800’s and I think that’s pretty cool. But anyway, I need to focus on writing. And I forced myself to write this afternoon. I turned off the TV (which is very difficult me), stayed off Twitter and put my imagination to work. I really struggled to find the inspiration at first, but eventually it all began to unravel perfectly in my mind. I typed out around 750 words before I realised where I was — lovely. It’s pretty amazing that my mind is making this story as it works. I’ve got a plan and I’m following it, but if I let my imagination take over and just write, these great little story details start to come out in the writing.

There are only a few days left of the My 500 Words Challenge and I’ve truly enjoyed doing it so far. There have been days when I’ve struggled to type out more than 150 words on the subject I’ve been prompted on and then there have been days when 500 really wouldn’t cover it. I think I’ve been pretty consistent, too — which is amazing for me. I’m consistently inconsistent with my fads. I shouldn’t consider this a fad because I always seem to come back to writing, whatever I do. I’ve taken up card-making, cake-topper making, cake making, illustration, jewellery making… You name a craft and I’ve probably thought about doing it full-time (and then given up on it two days later). But writing has been a constant throughout my teens and up until now. Receiving that book from my Grandad yesterday has made me realise that it’s probably in my blood. He has written countless memoirs and made a few DVDs about his past, and talking to him this evening, he said he’s made a loss on every single project he’s done. But he did them to tell the people around him his story. To see what they had to say about them. That’s what gives him pleasure; it’s nothing to do with the money. My dad is similar — when I was growing up I saw he always had a little project on the go; at first it was badgers, then family history (gulp) then military history, now something else. When he was in the army (in the 1980’s) he kept diaries, and always said he wanted to make them into books. I guess the writing bug is hereditary!

So, ending my 500 words tonight, I’m feeling positive that writing every day is achievable. If I can just turn the TV off and believe in my imagination, all will be well!

(Crikey, that was 500 exactly.)

Thanks for reading!

My 500 Words — But Not On Here.

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Hi there! Apologies for not checking in with My 500 Words last night. I got rather caught up in something else, and before I knew where I was, it was 11:00PM and time for bed. But, before you start worrying, (and I’m sure you are) I did in fact do my 500 words on my novel in the afternoon. Actually, I did over 500, probably nearer 650. I saw a tweet from Jeff yesterday — it said those who just talk about writing aren’t writers. I seem to do that a lot and I decided I must get on and actually write some of this damn novel. And I did. So, what was I doing afterwards that kept me away from my writing prompt, you ask? Well, I got an unexpected phone call from my Grandfather asking me if I’d received the book. I had no idea what he was talking about — I hadn’t been out to the mail box that day, so wasn’t aware he’d sent me anything. I trotted down, looked in it and there it was. A nice brown package with a book inside. It was a book written by him about his youth and young working life. Previously, we’d been chatting and I asked him about my grandmother, who had died at the age of 45. He told me where they’d met, how, and all that kind of thing. So, thoughtfully, he’d sent me a copy of his book.

When I got off the phone I began to browse through it; it’s not a difficult read, and not terribly long so I got through a few chapters quickly. It had information about my grandmother that I knew nothing about, and I really wanted to know more about her. Thinking about where she came from and where they met etc. I decided to have a look on Ancestry.co.uk and signed up for a free trial. Well, that was my night down the drain, I’m afraid. I also found a lovely photograph of her that I’d never seen before, posted by her niece in Australia. Amazing.

My Grandmother, Olive. Image by Cathy Sherwood.

My Grandmother, Olive.
Image by Cathy Sherwood.

So, I’ll be back this evening, right on schedule. Thanks for reading!

My 500 Words — Job’s A Good’un… Or Is It?

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Today’s challenge is to write about work. Most of us spend a big chunk of our lives at work — probably doing a job that we’re not really fussed about. And that’s me. I left school at sixteen with a couple of decent GCSEs but decided to go straight into work, rather than further education. The temptation to begin earning and leave behind the school environment was too great, so I found a job in the Co-operative Department Store in Colchester. I remember coming home from my first day; my feet and legs hurt so much from standing at a counter all day! Eventually, I got into the swing of things and became a confident young girl, selling frumpy dresses and big knickers to middle-aged ladies. As my position was only temporary over the Christmas period, I envisaged having to look for more work afterwards, but I was offered a job upstairs in the toys & nursery department. I hated it at first, but looking back now, I had so much fun and I really enjoyed myself. It was a fantastic little job, even if I was only earning £3.83 an hour!

In time, the Co-op got into financial problems and we were threatened with redundancy; I jumped ship early, finding a job as a care assistant where my mother worked. I was employed as a night carer and I think I took to it pretty well, even if doing nights was awful. At this point I had moved out and lived in Ipswich, 25 miles from where I was working. I looked at getting another care job, which I did get, but I ended up going straight back to my original job because of the terrible working hours. I started back on days and remained there for about four years, making some wonderful friends. I really disliked the job, though. It was a long commute and expensive, too. So, cautiously, I went looking again.

One day I was driving when I happened to see a sign outside my local pub, asking for bar staff. Thinking I wouldn’t get it, I applied. Well, I was wrong. I got it. It was very good pay, but the hours were very long. I’d just got married at that point and wanted to spent time with Ben, but I was doing 15-hour days, 6 days a week. I’m a lazy person at heart, but I work hard in my job. But I am lazy. I like to loll about, and I had no time to do that. I hated it. The place and the people were lovely, but I worked mostly on my own and it was quite stressful at times. So I searched again.

I applied to a few care homes and eventually got an interview at a nursing home, fairly close to my home. I got the job and saw care work in a new light. It had a completely different feel to my previous care home and I really began to enjoy caring. I’ve been there for nearly a year now, and I’m still enjoying it. It’s hard work, but, and this will sound clichéd, it’s actually really rewarding.

So there you go! My entire work life, summed up in around 500 words. I left out the bit about my award-winning book, though, I didn’t want to brag (ha ha!) 😉

Thanks for reading!