Tag Archives: creative process

bedside books

As much as I love my Kindle (it’s revolutionised my reading!), I don’t think anything can really replace having actual, real books to look at, hold and and lose yourself in. I love the sight of bookcases in houses and our sitting room bookcase, which is loaded with wedding presents (we asked for books that meant something to the giver :) ), makes me really happy. I also love having a pile of books on my bedside table and, given it’s about to be the summer holidays and you might be looking for book suggestions, I thought I’d share what’s currently sitting there with you. Maybe you can share what you’re reading with me too?

book pile

Nice looking stack, hey? Here we go – top to bottom:

The Space Between – Poems by Jonathan Barnes

This is a book of my Dad’s poetry. He’s a talented poet and I’m not at all biased in saying that! Oh, ok, I’m biased but I am also right. He has a gentle but powerful way with words. He gets to the truth of things the way all good poets do – his words always speak to me. Last night one of the poems in this collection made me cry. It’s a funny feeling reading the poetry of someone you know so well – you see more of their heart, mind and soul than you otherwise would, but at the same time it’s very much recognisably them too. Anyway, I love having poetry on my bedside table.

Moonfleet – by J Meade Falkner

This is an adventure story for kids (about pirates and smuggling), first published in 1898. It used to be hugely popular and has been made into a film and been adapted for TV and radio several times over the last sixty-odd years. My mum gave it to me recently for my eldest son (who’s just turned nine) to read. She said it was fantastic, that I should read it too and that it has in it the best chapter of any book she’s ever read. I’m hoping to read it soon!

Yes Please – by Amy Poehler

As a huge fan of the hilarious Parks and Recreation (in which she stars), I’ve been really enjoying reading Amy Poehler’s autobiography. She’s a really smart, funny and inspirational woman and it’s the sort of book where you’re constantly thinking ‘oh that’s a great quote!’ (check out this list for examples). I loved the preface where she describes her experience of writing the book (I know – the preface – you could say she had me at ‘hello’) and how hard it was, and not to believe that writing is anything but hard:

“Even I have lied about writing. I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit. It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.”

Yes, I know that hacking feeling! She’s very straightforward about it, saying that you just have to write, despite the other draws on your time and attention, and despite the voice of self doubt, because “Writing the book is about writing the book”.

The War of Art – by Steven Pressfield

My brother gave me this book for Christmas. It’s all about breaking through blocks and getting your work created. I read the first sections at the start of the year and was all, “Yes! I ‘m going to do this thing! Come on!” and I had a real creative surge for a good few months. Then I stopped reading the book – it was starting to get a bit religious and I couldn’t connect with it as much… even though the publishers pre-empted this possible reaction with a foreword written by an atheist. I haven’t gone back to it, but I will because there was so much in there that made sense.

How to Be a Husband – by Tim Dowling

I was lucky enough to meet Tim Dowling at a blogging conference last November. I can reveal that he is every bit as funny, honest and down-to-earth as his Guardian columns show him to be… and also a lot more handsome in person. I really was thrilled to meet him (could my excitement be any more obvious in this photo OF HIM WITH HIS ARM ROUND ME – I doubt it.) Anyway, sorry sidetracked there… the book… the book is also very funny. As with all non-fiction I tend to dip in and out of it (with a novel I always carry or I’d just forget the storyline) so I haven’t finished it yet, but so far I’m finding it honest, witty and wise.

Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times – edited by Neil Astley

This collection is absolutely what it claims to be: “500 life-affirming poems fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when much in the world feels unreal, inhuman and hollow.” My husband gave me the book last year and, frankly, this year the world has felt more ‘inhuman and hollow’ than ever (is anyone else wishing they could press the ‘reset button’ on 2016?). So this collection feels even more important now. I dip into it when I need to.

Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft – by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

This is a graphic novel that my husband recommended to me. I’ve never read a graphic novel in my life and it’s about time I started. I think as a writer and wannabe illustrator it makes a whole heap of sense to explore a new area of writing (as a reader). I haven’t started this yet *feels guilty* but I will, I will, I will!

You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes – by Chris Hadfield

Astronaut commander Chris Hadfield spent five months in 2013 aboard the international space station, where he used social media to capture the interest and imagination of millions of people world wide (I’m sure he was doing important astronaut work too… ). This is a book brim full of incredible pictures he took of earth from his vantage point in space, punctuated with his thoughts and observations – it’s amazing. My husband took our eldest son to meet Commander Hadfield last November so this is a special signed copy – a fact which makes me very happy!

So that’s my ‘dip in, dip out’ reading stack! What’s on your bedside book list? I’d love to hear any recommendations!

***

Oh, and before I go – I think I’m going to step back a bit from my blog over the summer. I’m already down to just one post a week but time is going to be tight to even get that written, what with having three kids around the place, a diary that is fast (and happily) filling up with meet-ups with friends, and the fact that I want to draw where I can. I’m not saying I won’t post at all, I’m just saying it will be completely ad hoc. I’m going to pause #WhatImWriting over the summer too – I’ll write more about that in the linky post.

Have a great summer!

Writing Bubble

where I’m at – #WhatImWriting

It’s Monday, the boys are back at school and it’s time for a proper ‘What I’m Writing’ post! I haven’t written about writing-y stuff for a while so there are a few things to catch up on.

trees

My ideal writer’s retreat – a forest glade in the sunshine. I haven’t retreated here to write yet (this was taken yesterday and I had two small boys with me) but I’m determined to at some point!

CampNaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) happens in November and is an online community of writers all aiming to write a novel in a month. A NOVEL IN A MONTH! Obviously I’m not crazy/talented/dedicated enough to attempt such a thing but I have signed up to the camp version which is this month. This is much more laid-back as you get to pick your own word count and your project can be anything word-related. I did it two years ago and wrote 15,000 words – it really helped with my motivation.

This time round I’ve set myself a target of 5,000 words because I want to focus on my picture books which aren’t really about word count at all. I’ve also decided to include blog posts in the target. Within this, there is also a hidden reading challenge as three of the blog posts I want to write are book reviews and I need to read the books first! So far, I’ve written 2194 words (although that doesn’t include this post!) but that’s all blogging and NO picture books! I WILL write some soon, I WILL!

London Book Fair

I’m going! I’m not quite sure what to expect but there are lots of interesting seminars to attend and people to network with, all in the area of writing and publishing and all under one roof, so it sounds fab to me! It’s this week and I’m combining it with a business conference and a meet up with some blogging friends, and also bookending it with nights at my parents house (I’m leaving my youngest with them) so it’s going to be a busy week. I fully expect to reach Friday exhausted with my head in a spin but I know it will be worth it.

Agent Submissions

I wrote a while back about having submitted some of my picture book manuscripts to agents. Thankfully at The Festival of Writing back in September we were all told how tricky it is to find an agent and how incredibly common rejection is, so the responses I’ve had (or rather, the three no responses, one rejection and a ‘we didn’t get your MS can you resend?’ followed by silence) haven’t really got to me. I just need to try again. The issue is finding the time to do so, as agent research and meeting the submission requirements is not a swift process. I know I’m procrastinating though and I just need to prioritise it. Basically, in my juggly life, unless I prioritise things, they don’t get done!

Blogging

Oh man, blogging is time-consuming, it really is. Not just the writing of posts (although I don’t seem to have a gift for speed, it has to be said) but the promotional activity (which I keep deciding I need to focus more on, then failing) and the social side (which is lovely but takes time and energy). When you’re a blogger who wants to write other things – novels, short stories or whatever – you do find yourself wondering if you’ve got the balance right. I do, anyway. Blogging is taking a lot of my focus at the moment. The blog post I wrote about education got so much attention (by my standards) that I’ve not felt able to concentrate on other types of writing because there’s been so much going in in my head. And there are more blog posts brewing too. I’m hoping CampNano helps me put some energy elsewhere.

I’d better leave it at that, I as I have planning, organising and packing to do for the week ahead!

Writing Bubble

creativity and inspiration

You know that feeling when you start a new relationship and everything is exciting and fizzes and crackles and you can’t wait to spend time with that other person and you think about them all the time and keep smiling to yourself and feeling a little giddy? That’s how I’ve felt this past week. Only it’s not a new man (phew!) it’s a new creative avenue. I’m mad for drawing.

It all began with Twitter. Well, Twitter, and a chat with a really good friend.  You see, I was nervous about this illustration course I’d signed up to do and I thought I might procrastinate my way out of beginning it even before the course materials had arrived so, with the encouragement of this kick-ass friend of mine, I decided to throw myself in at the deep end and join in with an artistic project on Twitter.

A bit like how I felt about doing an illustration course!

A bit like how I felt about doing an illustration course!

It’s called #ShapeChallenge and is run by author and illustrator Sarah McIntyre (I love her books!). Every week day she tweets a shape and encourages anyone – people of all ages and abilities – to draw/paint/create something based on it. Everyone then tweets their creations and ‘likes’ and comments on each others pictures. It’s FAB.

I’ve joined in every day for the past week and, even better, my sons have joined in too! My older two love doing it and even their little brother sits beside them and earnestly scribbles on a piece of paper. I’ve loved watching how their brains interpret the shape and the different things they’ve come up with. It’s felt like such a positive thing to do together.

owl

Owl – by my six-year-old. The original shape was one of the wings.

submarine

‘The diver’ by my eight-year-old. The original shape made me think of a hat but this is much better!

The other people who’ve been taking part in Shape Challenge have all been so lovely and welcoming too. There are lots of ‘proper’ illustrators who do it but also plenty of children and people who just enjoy drawing. After I post our pictures for the day I always go through the feed and look at what everyone else has created – it’s hugely inspiring! Honestly, I’ve been feeling a bit high on it all!

I’ve also found the idea of drawing something and tweeting it immediately, really liberating. I think I could spend ages on a drawing and decide it’s no good but somehow, the process of this challenge – having the shape to work with and then the community to tweet it to – has allowed me to overcome the fear and doubt and just go for it. It’s also inspired me – just looking at a blank piece of paper can be intimidating, but put a little white shape (with a red dot in it) there instead and it’s amazing what your brain comes up with. I’m pretty sure that even in the space of a week, my ability has improved. I mean, ok, I’m not producing great works of art but I’ve surprised myself with how not-totally-shit it is.

howard the monster

The original shape is in the bottom corner. It took my boys a while to spot the shape in the drawing!

Even better, it’s filling me with more ideas for writing too, and making me think about ways of overcoming procrastination and blocks there. I set myself a writing challenge last week where I hoped to harness this same idea of doing something quickly and throwing it out there. Just like with drawing, it took away the stress and was really fun. I’m going to do more.

I know this is a very image-heavy post but I just want to add one final picture – in celebration of unusual plumage everywhere and because all stories need to be told. :)

Maud's unsual plumage

Be like Maud.

Writing Bubble

What I’m Writing – week forty-six

typewriter butterflies badge

Welcome to week forty-six of What I’m Writing!

Forty-six! Still fresh as a daisy though and ready for your writerly wisdom, rants or ramblings (I love a good old ramble…  which reminds me – anyone ever listen to ‘Ramblings’ on Radio 4? There’s a quintessentially British programme if ever I heard one. People from all walks of life (excuse the pun) being interviewed by Clare Balding while on a bracing walk in the countryside. Taxidermists, spitfire pilots, singers, broadcasters and poet laureates all have their say. Inspiring, relaxing and slightly bizarre. Love it.)

Anyway, I digress… I’m hosting  ‘What I’m Writing’ for the second week running because Chrissie is ill this week :(  Let’s all send her get well vibes and virtual cake.

So, if you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is my co-host Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. My recent summer roundup can give you more of an idea of the sort of posts we share, but really anything goes!

We also have a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ which means you’ll need an invitation to join so once you’ve linked up just let me know if you want me to send an invite and I’ll click the appropriate button!

We welcome linkers old and new and if you’d like to join in there are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @writeybeast then we will RT.

On with the show! (and by the way Ramblings is available on iplayer because I’m sure I must have piqued your interest, right?)

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little voices

Two o’clock, Sunday afternoon. It’s gloriously sunny and I’m sitting in the garden. My husband has been away this weekend so I’ve had a few days of full-on parenting, but now, right now this very moment… I’m on my own. You know where the boys are? Inside watching Monsters University on TV.

Did I mention it was a gorgeous day?

garden

Look how gorgeous it is! What am a doing letting them sit inside on the sofa when they could be running around out here? Well, because when I went in just now to try and hustle them out of the house to play they just didn’t want to. They’re happy where they are. So I’ve decided to come back out here on my own.

Of course I’m not really on my own – there’s a little parental guilt voice that’s nagging me: “But they’ve been watching TV for ages – you should be entertaining them!”, and a reprimanding voice saying “Don’t waste a sunny day, you won’t get many more of them this year.”, and a bossy voice demanding, “if they’re watching TV the least you can do is get something useful done! What do you think you’re doing just sitting there?!” (Well I’m writing a blog post actually, bossy voice so you can get lost).

But I’ve recently been struggling to find any time to myself and I’ve felt like my creative side is stifled. I haven’t really written much beyond a couple of blog posts for weeks. I need time to sit by myself and think.

So I’m going to ignore the guilty voice and the reprimanding voice and the bossy voice. The boys are safe inside and I’m happy in the sunshine and that’s all that matters right now this minute.

I’m taking this moment for me.

Writing Bubble

what I’m writing – week forty-one

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week forty-one of ‘What I’m Writing’! Thanks for sharing your posts with us over at Muddled Manuscript last week – I always love finding out what everyone has been up to, and the last few weeks have seen new linkers too!

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is my co-host Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. April’s #WhatImWriting roundup post (Hmm, I should probably crack on with June’s… ) can give you more of an idea of the sort of posts we share, but really anything goes!

We also have a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ so you’ll need an invitation to join and I send these out to all linkers. That said, we’ve had a few issues with people’s invitations going AWOL recently so if you’d like to join and haven’t received one just leave me a comment – thanks!

We welcome linkers old and new and if you’d like to join in there are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @writeybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – I look forward to reading your posts!

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the need for speed – #WhatImWriting

How long does it take you to write a blog post? Half an hour? An hour? Longer? It quite often takes me a whole evening – a good three hours if I forget to go to bed early enough – and that just feels like too long to me. Even when I write a quick post I end up faffing around trying to find a picture, or editing it fifty billion times because I’m such a hopeless proofreader and can look right through glaring errors, or I decide I no longer like what I wrote and that the whole post needs re-writing. Sometimes I write the same post on and off for days – cooking tea with one hand and tinkering with the wordpress dashboard with the other. I’m so S-L-O-W.

tortoise

That’s why I could never be a pro-blogger (it’s nothing to do with lack of suitable content or being hopeless on social media or rubbish at pushing myself forward, nope, not at all)  I just can’t work fast enough. I can’t produce enough words in the right order at an appropriate time. When people talk about scheduling posts I’m baffled – you mean you write posts in advance and schedule them weeks before hand?! The furthest ahead I ever think is a few days and even then I don’t get the post written until I’m about to hit the publish button.

It’s the same with my creative writing. I suspect that even Ginger and Sluggish (my sons’ snails) could – if they were ever to get their hands (suckers?) on a pen and paper – leave me trailing in their wake. At the moment I’m spending months editing three picture books that, in total, contain fewer than 2000 words. In fact I’ve been writing them for the past nine months! How can it be taking me this long?

Admittedly, it’s not like that’s all I do with my time (kids, work, blog, housework, attempt at a social life, love of a good tv series, book obsession… and an occasional wave at my husband from behind a laptop) but still. Working faster would be useful. Editing faster would be great. In fact, where blogging is concerned perhaps I need to just fling the words out there a bit more and not edit at all? That would speed things up.

Or maybe I just need to accept my lack of speed and hope that, like the tortoise in the fable, slow and steady will win the race. One day I’ll trundle over the finishing line and see my words in print.

Are you a fast writer or editor? Do you edit blog posts much or just type ‘n’ go? Any tips?

Muddled Manuscript

 

What I’m Writing – week thirty-nine

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week thirty-nine of ‘What I’m Writing’! Thanks for sharing your posts with us over at Muddled Manuscript last week – I loved reading them!

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is my co-host Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. April’s #WhatImWriting roundup post can give you more of an idea of the sort of posts we share, but really anything goes!

We also have a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ so you’ll need an invitation to join and I send these out to all linkers. That said, we’ve had a few issues with people’s invitations going AWOL recently so if you’d like to join and haven’t received one just leave me a comment – thanks!

We welcome linkers old and new and if you’d like to join in there are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @writeybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – I look forward to reading your posts!

Writing Bubble

 

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seasons of creativity – #WhatImWriting

Do you find that your writing and blogging alters with the seasons? Do you write more in winter? Or share more in summer? Is there a time of year when you feel most inspired?

seasonal trees

The reason I ask –  I’ve noticed that our #WhatImWriting linky has been quieter of late than it was over the winter. The same seems to be true of Prose for Thought (a linky for sharing original poetry and prose) over at VeViVos. I also found when I did the BritMums Poetry and Prose roundup a few weeks ago that I had to search harder to find creative work to include in it. Some months it’s leaping out all over the web (or the corner of it that I frequent anyway) but this time round, it just seemed a little thinner on the ground.

It made me wonder if this time of year (it’s officially summer now although I have to say that up in the north of England it doesn’t much feel like it!) is a less creative one. Could it be that winter – with it’s hot mugs of tea, blankets on the sofa and cosy firesides – is more conducive to writing?

But then, given I’m hypothesising based on my experience of the blogosphere, perhaps it isn’t the writing so much as the sharing that occurs less in summer. Do we like to blog in winter because we spend more time huddled over computer screens? Because going out into the dark and wet to meet ‘real life’ friends is less appealing than staying indoors and communicating with virtual ones? Or are we just busier in the summer? I’m sure the summer holidays will mean a lull in the parent-blogging community… although we’re not there yet.

I’ve just had a peek through my blog archives and it seems I fit the pattern of blogging more in the winter. I also wrote far more short pieces of fiction and poetry then too. Am I feeling less inspired at the moment? Perhaps. I certainly don’t have the ideas for new pieces that I did earlier in the year… but then I’ve been focusing on editing so my mind has been otherwise occupied.

Who knows. Maybe there is no pattern at all, and wondering about such things this is just another procrastination method my brain has thought up! Sneaky brain.

What do you think?

Writing Bubble

no rhyme or reason – #whatImwriting

The blogging side of my writing seesaw came crashing down again this week and I haven’t posted since last Tuesday. Of course this means the writing side of the seesaw went rocketing into the sky and I was really productive.

inside my head/ on my coffee table

inside my head / on my coffee table

Or at least it should mean that.

I’ve certainly put a lot of time into writing this week – I’ve been editing my picture books based on the feedback I received from the manuscript review service. I’ve spent hours taking apart verses and putting them back together again, trying to work out if there was a better rhyme for this or a more succinct way of phrasing that. I’ve had so many rhymes spinning round in my head that they’ve invaded my dreams, chattering frantically to get my attention, tugging at my sleeping brain until they’ve forced it into wakefulness.

And yet I still don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. I had a horrible feeling earlier today that all I was doing was ruining what I’d written, that I was cutting too much out and changing it too much. I’m sure this can’t actually be true. At least I hope it isn’t true but I’m definitley starting to doubt myself.

‘Take a break from it’ I thought. But my writing time is so limited and the summer holidays  – which herald no child-free time – are racing towards us so I feel the need to write while I can. Not tonight though; enough’s enough. It’s 8.45 on a Monday evening and once I’ve finished this post I’m having a glass of wine and doing something else. I don’t care what it is, as long as there are no aliens or cake or magical adventures. And absolutely no rhymes.

Here endeth the post (I’m off for some toast).