Category Archives: Writing

Where do you write?

Most of my writing is done well before pen touches paper or fingers touch keypad. I write…

In the shower

While cooking

While running or swimming

Underwater. One of my favorite places to create.

As I fall asleep

As I wake up

While I sleep!

And that’s just the start of a very long list as more keeping popping into my head now as I type…

My point is; the crafting of any piece is writing is rarely done sitting at my desk. For the most part, by the time I actually sit down at my desk or open my notebook, the first draft is already written. The desk is where I edit – it’s where the work gets done.

Where do you write?

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Writers write, right..?

Source: freedigitalphotos.net

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net

Last month I posted a question over on Facebook, asking fellow writers when/whether they felt comfortable calling themselves writers. The responses were revealing…

My self-confident side says I can call myself a writer as I fulfill the only necessary criteria which is… that I write. However, as I am not paid to write, my insecure side says I shouldn’t REALLY call myself a writer because real writers get paid
Maddy, Writing Bubble

“It wasn’t until I had a book published and gave up the day job to write everyday that I felt like a writer.
Amy Beeson, Wordsby Commuications

I call myself a writer, but only very quietly when people are not really listening.
Judith Kingston, judithkingston.wordpress.com

The reason I asked this is because although on some level I’ve always known I was a writer, I never referred to myself as such until I was getting paid to do so. Bizarrely, I did refer to myself as a poet once I’d had some poems published and was regularly performing at spoken word events… But not a writer. Now that just doesn’t make any sense.

One of the reasons I held back from calling myself a writer for so long was because I kept hearing that “writers write every day.” I have boxes full of notebooks that go back years but I have never written every day. In fact, I’ve often gone long periods when I’ve written very little at all.

I have never written every day

Those who claim the need to write every day explain that the more you write, the more you write and that we need to practise our art. I agree on both counts. However, I don’t believe that taking a break is a bad thing. Everyone is different and for me personally, writing every day becomes a chore. I need those times in between to recharge my creative batteries by doing something else… And often find that this ‘downtime’ fuels my creativity and allows seeds of thought to develop so that I return refreshed and bursting with creative energy and ideas.

Writing is not just (sometimes not even) what I do. It’s who I am

I know I’ve always been a writer. There were times I didn’t allow myself to believe it because I spent too much time listening to other people’s ideas of what that should look like. But I know myself better now and I know that this is who I am. It’s as much a part of me as my brown skin, my curly hair and the birthmark in my eye. I can’t change it and wouldn’t want to. No matter what life throws at me, whether I get paid for it or not and even if I never write another word (highly unlikely!) , I am – and always will be – a writer.

Are you a writer? Is is as much a part of your identity as it is mine? Or is it just something you do…? Please do comment in the box below, or even join the conversation on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you!

Pigeons and puddles (free write)

This is a free writing exercise, written after a visit to the local park with my son. Not sure what I will do with it, if anything, but thought I’d share this one as it did unlock me a bit and got me going on the novel again. Feedback/thoughts welcome!

Pigeons and puddles

The sun catches the buggy as we enter the park and dips into the puddles around the bandstand, leaving occasional rainbows behind. He pulls at his restraints. “Get out!” He shouts, his legs already obeying his command.

Set free, he lurches forward, running towards the solitary pigeon enjoying a muddy bath in the relative peace of the early afternoon. “Go ‘way!” Shouts the boy, and the startled bird takes flight, stopping just a few metres away, still on the bandstand.

The boy runs up the steps and is joined by a girl in a pink bandana. Together they chase the pigeon around in circles, giggling and flapping their ‘wings’ so hard I wonder that they too, might take flight. They run through a muddy puddle, jumping and shrieking delightedly as the water streaks up their legs.

Their joy bounces off the bandstand and ripples across the park. Some are irritated by it but other feel it, pulling at the child within and they turn towards the children to catch them, heads thrown back in unselfconscious laughter, sunshine making their teeth shine and the innocence of a childhood summer reflected back in their eyes.

All fur coat and no knickers

As in, ‘Oh, don’t listen to her, she’s All fur coat and no knickers, that one.’

Ocelot fur coat by Kürschner, via Wikimedia CommonsLately, I’ve realised, ‘that one,’ is me. If you’re unfamiliar with this saying, it basically means that someone is all talk and no action. Earlier this year, I talked about Giving more, Doing more, and Being more. I have been quietly giving and doing more but being more – well, as I’ve said before, not so much. I’ve also talked about writing. I’ve not talked about my novel that much, but I have talked about it enough that you’d think I’d have got more done.

Perhaps I’m spending too much time talking, and not enough time just getting on with it. So, with this in mind, I have decided to only post one or two blogs each month from now on, so that I can shift my focus to this big project and keep it there. I’m still interested in interviewing more Ordinary People for the series if you’d like to take part/know anyone who would, and I would welcome any guest posts if you’re interested in writing one! I’m especially interested in showcasing guest posts from young writers like Natalie.

Right, now… Please excuse me while I take off this ridiculous fur coat* and get back into my jeans. 😉

* I don’t actually own a fur coat. 

Dear Mr Letters

This post is inspired by last week’s guest blog from young writer Natalie Cherry, who ended with an apology letter to her Year Five Teacher (go and read the post to find out why). This got me thinking about teachers who influenced me during my school years and the first one who came to mind was my English Teacher, Mr Letters. Yes, that really is his name.

Mr Letters was a young teacher (although I didn’t think so at the time), who taught one of my English classes when I was in the second year at school (I think that’s known as year eight now! Showing my age…). With his dark floppy hair and round glasses – slightly too big to be considered ‘hippy’ style but that sort of design, he could have been the subject of many a schoolgirl crush. Perhaps he was. I certainly had a crush of sorts on him but it was more of the ‘wow you’re so clever I wish I was as clever as you’ type crush than the usual infatuation teenage girls (and boys!) tend towards. I saved those crushes for my peers. Anyway, if anyone did have a crush on Mr Letters they would never have admitted it as he was considered too ‘old’ (he was probably about 25!) and too ‘geeky’ to be attractive. So, what was the attraction for me – other than his obvious intelligence? It was passion. So few of my teachers at the time had the same passion for their subject, with two notable exceptions (unfortunately one of these turned out to have a habit of snorting coke between lessons so I’ll leave their names out of this, lest the wrong teacher be accused). They both taught maths though, which was of little interest to me. However, the way Mr Letters wielded his words… It didn’t make me want him, it made me want to be  him.

To be honest, despite this idolisation of my former teacher, I only actually have one memory of him that really stands out for me but perhaps it is this memory* that sums him up.

One afternoon, we all sauntered into his class and sat down, waiting for the lesson to begin. Mr Letters waited until everyone stopped talking (proving, as Natalie recently pointed out, that it’s not necessary to shout to get a class to pay attention) and then, with a flick of his hair and a flourish of his hand, he began to speak:

“`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”

As he recited the Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, I was entranced.  I had no idea what these nonsense words were supposed to mean but under his command, they came to life. I saw the wabe, with it’s slithy toves gimbling, and felt the outgrabe of the mome raths. I have no idea what the rest of the class thought as they faded into the background. I expect some of them continued to pass notes and poke the girls/boys they fancied with pencils as I lost myself in Mr Letters (well, Lewis Carroll’s) words. I once again entertained by secret dream of being a writer, of creating words like this for another teacher to bring to life. Curious now, with hindsight, that it didn’t make me want to be a teacher… Like Natalie, I guess  I must have known.

I thought of Mr Letters again years later, the first time I stepped on a stage and wielded my own words at a poetry open mic night and wondered whether I would be able to pull the audience in the way he did me. I still think of him now, especially when I hear any kind of nonsense poem. That day, Mr Letters’ homework for the class was simply to memorise the Jabberwocky ahead of the next lesson. I say ‘simply,’ because for me, he had already given the poem meaning so all I did was play a movie of each stanza in my head and I could easily recall the words. I’m lucky to have a pretty good visual memory, I know this method doesn’t work for everyone. I enjoyed this ‘easy’ assignment. I did, however, wonder at the point of the homework. Memorise a poem? For what purpose? Well, I will end with a short letter to Mr Letters, with apologies to Natalie for stealing her style…

Dear Mr Letters,

I get it now. The purpose was for us to give the words meaning, that we would remember them and understand both the power of words, and the importance of their delivery.

Thank you for sharing your passion, and igniting mine. I hope you continue to do the same for all the future writers who cross your path.

With respect,
Rachael

How writing crept up on me (A guest post from Natalie Cherry)

This is a guest post from a talented young writer Natalie Cherry, who I recently discovered when she wrote a post over at SJB Teaching on the teacher stereotypes she would like to see less of. I enjoyed her laugh-out-loud descriptions of the PowerPoint addict (I know, they’re everywhere!) and the Shouter,  so I popped over to her blog to read some more of her work and was impressed with what I found. I got in touch and asked her is she would be interested in sharing her thoughts about writing so that you, too, could discover this young talent. I’ll let Natalie take it from here… 

Natalie CherryIt started, unbeknownst to me, in Year Five. In my feverish nine-year-old brain I was convinced that my class teacher hated me. There was no proof, but I just knew it. I saw looks that weren’t really there and heard a distasteful tone of voice that seldom existed and for that whole year I spent day after day playing out a ridiculous battle in my head.

The funny thing is, it turns out that this teacher, my great villain, knew me better than I did. She saw what others didn’t see. She knew that I would write.

It’s strange really, because looking back now I can’t understand how I didn’t realise that’s what I wanted to do. I blundered about for so long, oblivious to all the signs quite plainly telling me that my life was centred around writing. Piles of books and magazines teetered on my bedside table from about eight years old, while reams and reams of list after list scaled the walls and filled up small scribbled notebooks. I wrote a daily diary (and continue to do so), documenting every day down to the most insignificant of details.

Natalie's diaries

Then came the stories – scenarios focused around that year’s crush that played out in my head, written down in the Disney-esque hope that they might spring off the pages and into reality. Needless to say, these have been thoroughly hidden.  I once started to write a film based on a Katy Perry song and I even used to bring writing into my everyday life, using letters to say sorry to my family after big arguments, leaving them outside the door like an overly emotional postman. I always loved English at school too, and every year I started a new project, story or series of books that led me along a long literary trail where anything was possible.

I’ve always read books, often older than my age group, naturally enjoying the way language moves across the page and into my life. My window of education on the world of the teenage girl world came from the Princess Diaries; my understanding of the opposite sex limited to Harry Potter. Most of all, though, I loved to tackle books that I had to really think about when reading – my beach read at fourteen was Barack Obama’s autobiography, and I picked up a battered copy of Little Women at around twelve. The big jump into reality happened when I started reading newspapers, however, and now I access the news obsessively in every available format. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the stacks of travel magazines that sit waiting, calling me to their glossy pages.

My childhood threw just about everything it could at me, and yet I still didn’t know writing was the path I would take until last year. Of course, my Year Five teacher did. Yes, after seven years of believing that she hated me, I have discovered the truth. My mother revealed recently that at parents evening my teacher had told her that she believed I had great talent in literacy and should consider becoming a writer someday. I was shocked. My mighty enemy, my grand opponent, my fictitious foe was really a friend? Excuse me while I look sheepish for a while.

Once over the disbelief, I couldn’t help but think that I may have realised my potential sooner if I had let go of my deluded misgivings. Of course it’s always easy to say that with hindsight, and perhaps I needed to pass through my life completely clueless in order to develop, unaffected by pressure or expectation. Either way, I’ll never know for sure. There is one thing that I do know for sure, however, and that is what I must say now;

Dear [my] Year Five teacher,
Apologies for my dishonourable daydreams – especially the unfriendly ones.
I didn’t know.
Love,
Natalie.

Natalie is 16 and a bit busy working through her A-levels at the moment but she hopes to become a journalist and write everyday. In the meantime, she blogs over at Life as a unicorn. If you enjoyed this post, why not head on over now and hit ‘follow’?

Ordinary People – Interview with Julia Skinner

I’ve been blogging for just over three years now (how time flies!) and throughout, my focus has been on writing, people and poetry. The focus switches from time to time but everything here should fall under one of those categories. Back in 2009, I launched a series of interviews under the ‘People’ category. If you’ve been reading for a while you may remember it, I called it ‘Ordinary People.’

I’ve always been interested in people, and what motivates them to do what they do, especially when they do it well. Each interview in the series was with someone I admire – usually for creative reasons. This year I have decided to re-launch the series.

For my first interview, I caught up with Julia Skinner of Julia’s place.  Julia is a retired (but not retiring!) headteacher (primary school) who is not wasting a second of her time. Since handing in her headteacher’s hat in 2008, she has taken on a variety of creative projects. She manages three blogs – her main site, one about her experiences as a headteacher and one that showcases her Project 365 photos. She also contributes to various creative writing websites. In addition, Julia is a school governor and the founder of the 100WC project, is a weekly creative writing challenge for children under 16.

Did you have any plans of what you wanted to do before you retired or was the plan just to rest..?
Julia SI had presumed that ‘life’ would fill in the days. I thought I’d do some consultancy work with schools, catch up with my reading, get fit & ‘do lunch’! I had intended to learn to play the piano. As it was, the first six months were hell. I cried EVERY day. I just didn’t have anything or anyone to worry about. I suffer from anxiety & the vacuum of no school meant my demons came flooding in. My wonderful hubby got me through it, together with twitter!

You’ve taken on quite a lot since then, and I’m sure you have other personal commitments too. How do you manage your time?
Not well! I do sometimes forget to ‘check the diary’ & find myself chasing my tail. I start the day at the PC & have a routine for each day that includes cleaning, shopping & spending time with hubby. We try to go out on an adventure every Wednesday and even take a picnic with us.

Tell us a bit about the 100WC challenge and your motivation behind it
It started as an idea to get more people visiting my blog ‘The Head’s Office’. I used to do a similar challenge with an American blogger and thought it could be adapted for schools. As it’s grown it has become my second career!

You now have a team of volunteers behind 100WC, to ensure every child receives comments on his/her work. How did you manage when you were doing it by yourself?
When I started 100WC I said that if the children posted, I would comment. That was fine until it got to around 150 each week and I was eating & sleeping 100WC! I now have some volunteers who follow a set of guidelines and between them, they leave a comment for each child. My aspiration is that each child gets three to four comments from a grown up but with an average of 700 entries each week, I need lots more volunteers. If any of your readers have an hour to spare do get in touch!

I love the weekly prompts on your main blog, the 100WCGU. Tell us how this came out of the 100WC project.
Well, it seemed an obvious extension. Originally, both the challenges were coming from the same blog but as the grown-ups could be a tiny bit saucy and the children might stray into the wrong place and read stories that are unsuitable for a younger audience, they now have their own spaces.

You write, bake, and dabble in amateur photography, what’s the appeal of each of these creative outlets?
I’ve never considered myself creative in any way. I think I associated creativity with art and art with painting. Joining in with some of the memes* and the blogging world in general has given me the confidence to have a go. Much to my surprise, I’ve found that I really enjoy it.

Do you have a preferred creative channel?
No. I’m happy to have a go at most things. I do need to get out the keyboard that we bought when I retired & have a go at playing it!

What or who inspires you to create?
Other bloggers. If they can do it – so can I!

Tell us a secret (or something surprising about yourself)
I have very low self esteem but my wonderful third husband (yes – I’ve been married three times!) really keeps me going each day.

Thanks taking part Julia! I hope you enjoying answering these questions as much as I enjoyed learning more about you.

Daff big (1)To find out more about Julia, head over to her main website and/or follow her on twitter.

If you would like to find out more about (and get involved with) the 100WC project, head over to the website to find out more.

*What’s a meme?