When The Words Won’t Work

Brain Malfunction

If this post actually makes it into your Reader or email inbox, it will be a miracle. Because right now, the words just ain’t working.

I haven’t posted in nearly a week. The blogging experts in WordPress reckon you shouldn’t say things like that but, hey, it’s my dinner party so I’ll do what I want. Even if I am holding it in the WordPress dining room, I’ve paid my booking fee so I figure I have some liberties.

Why aren’t they working?

One of my myriad trades is as a Casual Relief Teacher at a school for children with high intellectual and physical disabilities. It is demanding work physically, mentally and emotionally. In addition, I don’t have a background in Special Education so I am flying virtually blind every time I step into a classroom. I basically run my brain like a supercomputer all day when it’s really just a small netbook.

It’s exhausting.

We’re into the busy time of year when it comes to teacher absences so I’ve had a lot of work lately. This past week, I worked every day. As much as I would have liked to head home at the end of each school day to a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down, I am also a mother of three boys so my own life comes into play for the rest of the day/evening/into the night.

And let’s face it, I’m not running on a lot of resources at present as it is. I spend a lot of energy trying to keep Grieving Me shut in a room at the back of my emotional house. “I don’t have time,” I tell her. “We’ll talk later.” She doesn’t listen. She likes to wander out at inconvenient moments and make me teary.

I was hit in the face by a thrown book on Monday. It happens and it didn’t really worry me. At least, it didn’t until someone asked me, with a caring look, “Are you okay?” And there were the damn tears, just below the surface, ready to jump in and make the situation embarrassing.

Words. I was talking about words.

They’re just not working properly.

I am, in this very instant, fighting the impulse to hit the Trash button on this whole post. The words seem wrong. Like a pile of hard rubbish left in a mess on the side of the road.

So I sit here, staring at the screen, trying to get my brain in gear while my mind rolls backwards down the hill.

I will make myself hit Publish if only to wave a feeble hand and say “Still here.”

 

 

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Everybody’s Writing A Memoir But Me

Memoirs. I’ve always been very impressed by my fellow bloggers who have written – or are in the process of writing – their memoirs.

It’s not something I’m ever likely to attempt. I believe I have made it clear already that any memoir I tried to write would be very short and exceedingly uninteresting.

I can't even design a decent book jacket.

I can’t even design a decent book jacket.

I’ve not had exciting jobs or met fascinating people. I’ve not dined with opera singers or hung out with rock stars. I haven’t even had a riveting childhood. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my childhood, but it certainly isn’t filled with tales of deprivation or neglect – the usual stuff of memoirs.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that my youngest son is writing his memoir. He’s only twelve but I am sure – from what I have heard – that he is writing an account of his Life So Far.

How do I know this? He keeps coming and asking me for vocabulary advice.

“What’s it called when someone punches their fist into their other hand?” (I couldn’t answer that one. What is that called??)

“What do you call it when you say something and the other person completely overreacts and how you then react to that?” Shocked? Surprised? Stunned? Stunned. That’s the word he was looking for.

I can’t wait to read it.

 

I’m joking about it being a memoir. Please don’t call the Child Protection services.

 

Pardon? What is he writing, then? No idea. He’s writing. That’s enough to know, don’t you think?

 

 

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“And Then Like My Dreams” by Margaret Rose Stringer (Not A Review)

ATLMD

This is not a review. I don’t like book reviews. To me, reading a book is such a subjective act, how can one assess the quality of a book with true neutrality? With a book, one person may snort with laughter, drawing attention from fellow commuters on the train while another gets only ten pages in and wonders what was so funny. Or one may find the richness and sophistication of a narrative inspiring while another has no idea what the author is talking about.

Those who have already stumbled across the blog of Margaret-Rose Stringer (better known as M-R out here in the Blogosphere) will know that she has written a book. She claims she began the blog as a publicity vehicle for her book. Whatever the reason, I am glad she did. She is a fresh, wicked voice in the Blogosphere and book or no book, long may she reign.

I’ve read her book – And Then Like My Dreams {a memoir} – the story of her life with Charles ‘Chic’ Stringer, master stills photographer in the Australian film industry. But I’m not going to review it. What I am going to do is offer a response – the depths of my feelings while reading this remarkable book.

I must first confess that I had to put this book down twice before I got to page three. That’s not M-R’s fault. She describes the impending death of her beloved Chic and the news of her father’s death on those first two pages with such raw emotion that I, having lost my own father mere days before, could not read those passages without time to recover. But such is her writing that it was only minutes before I just had to pick it up again to see what else she had to say.

I feel I’ve got to know M-R’s voice pretty well through her blog and reading her book was like an extended conversation. Well, okay, she was talking and I was listening so it was a somewhat one-sided conversation, but as she had such a great story to tell, I didn’t mind.

This book made me laugh loudly, cry quietly and – being a sheltered wallflower – blush frequently. I moved through anticipation of the beginning to dread of the ending.

It almost drove me mad that my life went crazy just as this book arrived in the post. It meant little time to read and this was a book I didn’t want to put down. So desperate was I to keep reading, more than once it fell out of my hands late at night as I squeezed in what reading time I could before my eyes got the better of me and closed against my wishes.

Some of her memories are described in film script form. I loved these, having grown up reading and memorising Monty Python and Goon Show scripts. It set the scene perfectly and gave me a visual response to whatever memory she was conveying.

Her pithy little footnotes were also a delight. I do so love a pithy footnote.

I was insanely jealous in parts – of her experiences, her travels, her oh-so-capable husband (he builds their house, for Pete’s sake!).

The last quarter of the book is a difficult read. In fact, I almost contacted M-R to tell her the promised review would not be forthcoming as I wasn’t sure I could finish the book. Having watched my father’s deterioration and death less than a year after his diagnosis of mesothelioma, this section of their story hit a little too close to home. I can imagine it an emotional read for anyone who has watched a loved one battle cancer.

But I felt I owed it to M-R and to her beloved Chic to finish the story. To know and to understand the whole story.

So, after a not-so-little cry and a good blow of the nose, I pushed on. I’m glad I did and I encourage anyone who feels the emotion too much to keep going. There is hope and light and laughter to be had in the ending of the story.

I know that M-R did not write this book for fame (it is so often fleeting anyway) or fortune (she assures us this is certainly not forthcoming) but because she wanted as many people as possible to know about her wonderful and amazing husband. I encourage you to read this book and meet this most remarkable of men.

M-R, thank you for sharing your story and your ‘Stringer’ as you loved to call him. I am so glad to have met him. I am only sorry not to have shared one of Chic’s meals with you both over a bottle of Italian red. I do so love an Italian red. And what fun that would have been.

Check out Margaret-Rose Stringer’s blog here for details on how to purchase this book. Then buy it. Then read it. Trust me.

 

 

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Still Venturing… One Year On

Mosy One Year

One year ago today, I started my blog. Reluctantly. On the what-I-saw-as-slightly-dodgy advice of a friend.

I went back and read that first post just to see whether I’ve ended up where I thought I would. Not really. Kind of. Maybe.

I certainly didn’t end up giving the writing a “red hot go”. Pursuit of publication took a back seat. The back seat of a 55-seater bus.

Did I write about what I said I’d write about? Hm. Not much about writing, that’s for sure. That seems to have waned after the first few posts. There’s been some parenting in there, a bit of social justice, very little about travel (damn it). But the “random weird stuff”? Oh yeah, got plenty of that.

So, what went into the blog has not quite been what I was expecting.

But here’s the big learning: What I got out of it was so much more than I was expecting.

I found a new community. New ‘like minds’. New friends.

It no longer matters that I’m not writing about my up-and-coming new novel. It doesn’t matter that I am a mere blip on the WordPress radar.

In the end, life is about connecting. And learning.

I’ve connected with different people in different parts of the world who are leading different parts of life.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel like an alien in a house full of boys. I’ve learned that loss and grief is both personal and universal. I’ve learned that maybe snow is not so exciting when you have to live with it every winter.

I’m an introvert and a common myth is that introverts don’t like to talk. This is not true, as anyone who has shared a bottle of wine with me will attest. What introverts can’t do is ‘small talk’. ‘Meaningful talk’ they can do for hours. Hanging out in the Blogosphere has been like being at a dinner party with friends who are on the same wavelength but with wildly differing views to offer, all putting their oars in on matters wide and wonderful. I’ve revelled in the opportunity to join the discussion, as many bloggers on whose posts I have commented will no doubt agree, perhaps ruefully.

Who can be lonely when you have the world to invite to your table?

Being the flighty Jack of All Trades I know I am, I wasn’t sure how long this ‘experiment’ would last. I’m impressed that I’ve made it through a whole year. Mind you, I have a bit of a pattern of about 2 to 3 years before I get bored so let’s see if I’m still here in two years’ time.

If you’re all still here, I’m pretty sure I will be too. I wouldn’t miss this dinner party for the all the book contracts in the world. (Hm. Well, maybe for one real one.)

 

 

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Grief and Story

Grief and Story

A dear friend of mine died the other day. He was an irascible old bugger but one of the biggest supporters of my writing.

I once wrote a short story for his wife (another of my biggest supporters) as a thankyou for a theatre piece I was involved in with the theatre company started by them both. He was a tad jealous, I think. He wrote to me soon after and said how much he had enjoyed the story and so he thought he would write a sequel to it.  This he duly did and emailed it to me. In response, I emailed back a continuance of what he had started.

And thus a back-and-forth formation of a story developed. That is, until the day he asked if he could make some minor alterations to the last bit I had sent him. I agreed but when he sent back my bit with his next bit added, only about 300 words of my more than 800 word contribution remained. I then suggested that perhaps he should drive the story home as he obviously had more invested in how it should end than I.

He hadn’t thought he’d done anything wrong. When his wife pointed out how hurtful and inappropriate his action had been, he was mortified. Such a frustratingly endearing man.

I had thought we were just having a bit of fun with the story and so in one of my additions, I moved the action to Peru. There might have been a bit of political intrigue in there. When you’re just writing for fun, it’s no holds barred so why not be ludicrous?

Unbeknownst to me, my lovely writing partner was actually formulating a plan to present the story as a radio script at a performance opportunity.

What??

It went ahead. I was slightly embarrassed. Particularly as I had to sit through each performance as sound and lighting technician.

Fortunately, the local theatre critic was complimentary if not effusive. At least he wasn’t abusive.

For his 80th birthday I wrote my dear friend a story of his own. I left it open-ended so he could add to it if he wished. Which he did and we had a minor back and forth but life had changed for both him and me and it never quite took flight as the other did.

In honour of Dennis and in his memory, I give you the original story I wrote just for him.

The Old House

He stood on the other side of the street, trying to suppress his disappointment. It had been more than fifty years, he reminded himself. He had tried to prepare himself. Of course, it will have changed. It will be a different colour. Maybe even have been built onto. In the cloud of his misery, he had to admit he had not been prepared for this.

The house had gone. Completely. Not even the large beech tree in the front yard, at the top of which he had hidden on more than one naughty occasion, remained. The new house was a monstrosity, creeping right to the front boundary, edge to edge, no room for grass, trees or the freesias that used to pop up every spring, even though no one could remember ever planting them.

He noticed a curtain twitch and looked away, studying the map in his hand as if looking for something. Out of the corner of his eye, he tried to make out a face, but there seemed to be no one there. Perhaps he had imagined it.

Never go back. That had been his brother’s advice. Never go back. It will only hurt you. But he had to go back; had to see the old place just one more time. This would be his last trip back to the old country. He was getting too old for trans-continental travel.

Scanning the windows for movement, he crossed the street. Standing in front of the house, he peered down the side, hoping against hope that perhaps the old magnolia tree was still there. It had been his mother’s favourite tree. He had hated it as a child, having to pick up the dead flowers as they dropped in their multitude all through the late spring. Of course, it had been nothing but trouble. Temperamental as an old maiden aunt, it had driven his mother to distraction. His father had threatened to pull it out one year, but Mother had insisted it would improve. As if to snub his father, the next season it was at its most glorious. The following year, it refused to flower at all, but Mother had made her point.

As he was craning his neck to see down to the back fence, the front door opened. A woman emerged and stared at him curiously. Embarrassed, he stepped away, for a moment considering the option of walking away quickly as if he had not been staring pertinently into another person’s backyard. This is ridiculous, he thought.

“I used to live here,” he said. “Well, in the house that used to be here.”

The woman, small and dark-haired, nodded and smiled. “Would you like to come in?” she asked.

He stared at her, uncertain if she meant it. Then he ducked his head and nodded. “If it’s not too much trouble,” he mumbled.

She led the way through the door and into the front passage. The house seemed even bigger inside. It was all gleaming white marble and pristine ivory walls. Nothing like the dark and cramped childhood home he remembered. He caught a glimpse of large plate windows at the back of the house, open to the view, and tried to spot anything recognisable, but there almost seemed to be no backyard at all.

“My name is Annie. My husband is in the study. He’d be very interested to meet you,” the woman said as she ushered him down a shining corridor. Coming to a large white door, she knocked and entered.

“Peter, this is… I’m sorry, what was your name?”

“Martin.” He followed her into the study. Seated at a large oak desk was a man who seemed twice the size of his tiny wife. He rose and reached out a massive hand.

“He used to live here,” Annie said as the two men shook hands.

“Ah. Well, then, I’m very pleased to meet you, Martin. I have quite an interest in the old house.”

Martin pushed aside the thought Then why did you pull it down?, just nodded politely and sat in the chair Peter was indicating. Annie slipped out of the room, hardly noticed.

“Can I get you a drink?” asked Peter.

“Just soda water, please.”

As Peter walked over to a sideboard and poured two drinks, Martin took the time to glance around the room. It was only then he noticed the pictures on the wall. They were all of the old house. Not quite as he remembered it; it was in a pretty poor state and someone at some point had painted it orange. But there was the old beech tree and, he gasped, the magnolia in full flower, even amongst the ruin of weeds and long grass of the backyard.

Peter handed him his drink and looked up at the photos. “It was in a bad way when we bought it. Irredeemable, according to our builder. We had no option but to demolish.” He said this last line softly, his eyes on Martin.

Martin nodded and swallowed hard. “Even the magnolia?” he asked.

“It had to be moved. I guess it had spent too long in the one place; it didn’t survive.”

The two men sat quietly for a moment. Then Peter said brightly, “But as you can see, we took as many photos as possible of the house. We figured its history was linked to the new house in some way.”

“How long have you lived here?” Martin asked, trying to match Peter’s bright tone.

“About 15 years.”

“Do you have a family?”

“Two boys, both away at college now. Yourself?”

Martin shook his head. “I was married, once. It didn’t work out. Always just found it easier to be on my own after that.”

After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Peter drained his glass and stood up. “Would you like to see around the house?” he asked.

Martin nodded, rose and followed him out of the study.

As Peter took him through the house, Martin found himself trying to superimpose the locations of each room of the old house. Here, was the good sitting room where nobody ever sat, except when Great Aunt Gemma came to visit. He remembered it as a place of stuffy discomfort, forced to sit for hours in his best clothes – always too tight – but never allowed to speak. When Great Aunt Gemma finally died, the sitting room was never used again.

There, would have been the bedroom he shared with his three brothers. Crammed into a room barely bigger than the pantry in this new house, the boys had fought and played. Martin remembered, as the youngest, he always seemed to get the worst of it. He hardly saw his two oldest brothers now, one living in South Africa, the other in the United States. The siblings had been flung all over the globe. He and his next oldest brother, Jerry, were the closest, both based in Melbourne, Australia. His sister Prudence was in Brazil, while the baby of the family, Millicent, was a truck driver in the West Australian mines.

He remembered the boys had always been jealous of the girls. The two of them shared a room bigger than their own, an unforgivable injustice. Their parents had excused the inequity by pointing out the boys’ room was the furthest from the front of the house and thus from the attention of the neighbours. Enough aware of their raucous behaviour, the boys had no answer to this logic.

As Peter ushered him from room to room, Martin had the disquieting feeling that it was his home, but not. The view out the windows was much the same. Some trees were taller, some had gone altogether. Some of the old houses remained, some, like his own, had disappeared from the landscape to live only in the memories of old men.

They were standing at the back of the house, in front of the enormous windows, when Peter asked “Sorry, Martin, did you say what your surname was?”

“No, no I didn’t. It’s Randler.”

Peter nodded and returned to his contemplation of the view. Suddenly he turned to Martin and said, “You’re not related to Henry Randler, are you? He was a teacher.”

“He was my father. Why? Did you know him?”

Peter laughed. “He was my father’s history teacher. The old man talked about him all the time. Apparently he used to do these crazy stunts. Once, they dressed up as knights and held a tournament in the gymnasium. Another time he had them building a pyramid on the oval using hay bales he got some farmer to ship in. Dad was always keen on history and credited your father with giving him that passion.”

He looked at Martin and shook his head. “Imagine if Dad were still here and I could tell him I had Henry Randler’s son in my house. That I lived where Henry Randler lived. He’d be tickled pink.” He smiled. “Dad said your father used to go digging out in the farmlands somewhere. He’d come into class with his latest find. Arrowheads, potshards, that sort of thing. Although, Dad did say he once came in with gold. It was a misshapen lump but your father claimed it was probably a crown. Never told anyone where he got it, of course.”

“I remember that,” said Martin. “He used to get into a fearful row with my mother because he’d clean them in the kitchen sink and she was forever scrubbing mud and muck out of it. We always wanted to go out with him, but he’d never take us. Top secret, he said.”

The two men laughed. Then, Martin, a memory churning in the back of his mind, asked “Is the old brick kiln still here? The one in the back corner of the yard?” Even as he said it he was scanning the garden below, but could not see the distinctive red brick walls of the kiln and his heart sank, even before Peter replied.

“The walls were pretty unstable. We had to knock it down.” He glanced at Martin. “We still have the bricks, though. Down the side of the house.”

Martin looked up at him and grinned. “Feel like going brick-hunting?” he said.

Peter looked at him quizzically, shrugged and said “Why not? How much stranger can today get?”

Peter took Martin out a side door and down the far side of the house. The bricks were stacked neatly along the fence line, their reddish hue just as Martin remembered them. He scanned along the bricks.

“What are we looking for, then?” asked Peter.

“There should be one with a sort of purple stripe through the middle of it,” replied Martin.

The two men searched along the pile, but, to Peter at least, the bricks all looked much the same. As they reached the end of the pile, Martin slumped. “I guess it was a bit much to expect it to still be here,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure we put all the bricks here,” said Peter. “It should be here somewhere.”

They moved back along the pile, more slowly this time. Just before they got to the end, Martin felt his shoe scuff something in the grass. He looked down. Half buried in the grass was a brick that had obviously fallen from the pile some time ago. He dug it out and picked it up. Turning it over in his hands, he smiled as he picked out the distinctive purple discolouring along one side of the brick.

With Peter eyeing it expectantly, Martin took his keys from his pocket and used one to scrape along the edge of one side of the brick. Then, using it as a lever, he slowly removed a small panel.

“How did you know about that?” Peter asked breathlessly.

“I watched him once when he’d been out on one of his digging adventures. I saw him hide something in one of the bricks. I managed to find the brick but I couldn’t get the panel open. I forgot about it after a while. I didn’t think it would be anything important anyway.”

Peter stared at him. Martin shrugged. “I was a kid. My father was always doing something odd. We didn’t pay that much attention.”

He stuck his finger into the exposed cavity. Wriggling and twisting, he eventually pulled free a yellowing, torn piece of paper. As Martin carefully unfolded it, they moved their heads closer to peer at the tiny diagram.

Martin looked up at his new friend and grinned. “Well, what do you make of that?”

THE END?

 

 

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How Eleanor Roosevelt saved me from embarrassment

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote 1

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well, when you’ve been posting every couple of days in the first flush of blog-love, a four day delay counts as a while. Sometimes life gets in the way. Real life, that is. As opposed to blog life.

And also this:

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I awoke to a wave of embarrassment washing over me. Actually, it didn’t so much wash over me as dump me. Hard. As anyone who has ever been dumped by an ocean wave knows, it hurts.

Why the embarrassment? This. The blog. I woke up thinking about it and was suddenly overcome by embarrassment. I can’t even tell you why. It was one of those ‘what was I thinking?’ moments that can strike when your confidence defences are down.

I pushed the feeling aside and went back to sleep. But I was bruised and bruises take time to heal. So recent days have held a running commentary in my head:

“Why are you embarrassed?”

“I don’t know. What if I’m making a fool of myself?”

“Does it matter? I mean, really, what impact would it have on your life?”

“But it’s so public. Someone out there could be thinking I’m an idiot.”

“Ha! Like that would be a first!”

“Well, that’s a bit mean.”

“It’s true, though. It’s not like it’s the first time you’ve done something stupid, is it?”

“Say something nice.”

“Get a grip and I might.”

“Sigh. You’re right. I’m being ridiculous.”

“Yes, you are. It’s your blog, do what makes you happy and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.”

“Okay. Yes. You’re absolutely right.”

“Of course I’m right. I’m you.”

And then I discovered Eleanor Roosevelt and her wisdom. (Well, obviously, I’d heard of her, I knew who she was, but I didn’t know much about her.) I haven’t read about her in depth, so I make no judgement on her personal history but from the numerous quotes I’ve found, she was certainly a wise lady.

Someone shared the quote at the beginning of this post just as I was struggling with my self-doubt (I know, I do that a lot) and it helped me push on in my exploration of boundaries unknown. Only through doing what we think we can’t do can there be real growth. It’s worth also noting the following quote from Pablo Picasso: “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

On researching other quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt, I discovered more wise words which I’d also like to share.

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote 2

How apt in light of my early hours tsunami of humiliation.

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote 3

This I fully intend to do. I’ve often described myself as having a short attention span, as I do have a tendency to want to know what comes next and to try new things. I like Eleanor’s reasoning. I intend to live life to the utmost and fill it with new and exciting experiences whenever possible. And not to feel embarrassed about it, because…

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote 4

Thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt.

 

 

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Fiction Friday 1

Fiction Friday

A fraction of fiction for some Friday fun:

Down The Drain

I almost missed it. It was hidden behind a lavender bush and I only noticed it because I stopped to watch a rock band crowd of bees going crazy about a bush full of purple flowers. I was feeling bored so I went to see what it was.

It was the opening to a pipe, wide enough for me to stand up in. It smelled like cats. Far down in the darkness there was a reddish glow. Pushing aside the thought of What Happened To The Curious Cat, I walked down the pipeline towards the dim light.

As I drew closer, I could hear a jangling noise like a prison warden’s keys. There was a bend in the pipe where the glow was brightest. I stopped at the corner, my eyes drawn to contorted, dancing shadows on the pipe wall.

The jangling was louder and I could hear humming, not particularly tuneful but certainly enthusiastic.

I peered around the corner.

It was a wide open space and in the centre was a pile of rear bicycle lights providing the red glow. On one side of the room was a collection to rival the world’s greatest flea market. Piles of cans, old newspapers, dog collars, tennis balls, roller skates and the unidentifiable. Oh, and money. Piles and piles of coins of every denomination.

I was so busy staring at the money that I didn’t notice the jangling and humming had stopped. The silence soon made its way down my ear canal and it was then I noticed the small figure on the other side of the room.

It was only about a metre tall with shiny green skin. It was wearing an odd assortment of clothing of the kind even the poor don’t want – a dirty singlet, threadbare shorts and a pair of bright pink plastic sandals. Around its neck were a dozen necklaces and it was wearing an unusually large pair of sunglasses. I thought it was wearing an elaborate hat but as I looked closer, the ‘hat’ was multiple pairs of glasses – sunglasses, reading glasses and even a pair of swimming goggles. On each finger (three on each hand) was a ring, three with diamonds, two with sapphires and one with an enormous opal. In its left hand was a large stick and attached to the stick were bunches and bunches of car keys.

It was staring at me.

Fear was telling my legs to run but curiosity told them to stay. I waved my hand in what I hoped was a friendly manner, feeling stupid but unsure of what else to do.

The creature gave its stick a shake and then it walked over to a small opening at the back of the room, turned and beckoned for me to follow.

I read books. I like mystery books best. I’ve never understood why the characters in the books continually put themselves into dangerous situations. Everybody knows you don’t try and open a locked door, you don’t get out of bed to investigate weird noises at night and you never, ever follow strange creatures down dark passageways. It’s just asking for trouble.

I turned and ran.

And I spent the rest of the day being happily bored.

The End

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever lost down a drain?

 

 

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If a blog posts…

“If a blog posts in the internet and there is no one there to read it, does it make a difference?”

– Me (with apologies to philosophers everywhere)

It’s  a strange thing, writing a blog. You spend time gathering your thoughts, formulating your words, finding just the right phrasing and then you send it out into the ether. You hope people will read it. You hope they laugh/cry/think/do depending on the topic of your post. But what if nobody reads it? Does it really exist?

(Let’s get metaphysical, metaphysical, I wanna get metaphysical…)

Ultimately, I don’t blog just to be read. I blog as an opportunity to express myself and as a discipline to write something. Therefore, yes, it does exist because it is real to me.

While the above statement is true, it would be disingenuous of me not to admit that I get a little thrill when I see that people have read a post. Double thrills if they comment on it because it means they’ve actually read it and not just clicked through to the page and gone “naah…”. I’m only human. We all like a pat on the back and a ‘well done’ when we’ve done something.

So maybe a blog read by others is more ‘real’? Perhaps the more its existence is acknowledged by Likes, Comments and Follows, the more real it becomes?

We’re drifting into quantum theory territory here so I’ll stop while we still know the cat is alive and the moon exists.

In the end:

“Blogito ergo sum gauisus.”

– Me (with apologies to Descartes)

Translation: I blog, therefore I am happy.

Blogger Me

Blogger Me


 

 

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Secrets of Success

advice

I’ve been conducting exhaustive research into the advice from established authors to aspiring writers. After compiling results in a spreadsheet and undertaking extensive statistical analysis, I can confirm that 92.47% of successful authors advise the following:

1. Write

2. Read

Yes, that’s it. That’s the big secret to success. You need to continue to pursue two of the three Rs you began at school. (As a qualified mathematician, I also continue to pursue the third R which may grant me bonus points but is probably irrelevant.)

Only 1.38% of respondents advised taking a writing course.

Analysis of a subset of values for Advice Point 1 revealed the following crucial advice:

Find your own voice and write from your passions.

In other words, don’t try to be what you are not. Don’t attempt to second guess what publishers and/or the public may or may not want to read. If you write it your way about things you love, the rest will take care of itself.

What a magnificently freeing thought.

“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.”

– Neil Gaiman

*NB: All statistics quoted in this post are completely fabricated. As all good statistics are.

 

 

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Of course I just want to write, but…

“Real writers don’t write to get published. They write just to write.” – Jeff Goins

(http://goinswriter.com/writers-dont-write-to-get-published/)

I was sure I’d heard someone like Neil Gaiman say something similar – that a lot of people don’t want to be writers, they just want to be published – but I couldn’t find the reference. Jeff Goin’s quote will do.

I’d like to think I’m a real writer – nothing gives me greater pleasure – but Jeff, I’d sure love to be published. However, it’s not about fame or fortune; it’s about external validation.

It’s all very well having friends and family tell you how wonderful you are, to tell you how much they enjoy your emails from abroad and that you should write a book about it. They’re supposed to say that – that’s why they’re friends.

I don’t know many creative people who don’t have at least some measure of self-doubt. Some of us have Inner Critics with very loud voices. So even if a horde of people you know tell you how fantastic your new book/ song/ artwork is, the Inner Critic will invariably chime in with “Well, of course they would say that. They’re trying to be nice.”

Even when I’ve asked, pleaded, for honest feedback and that feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, the self-confidence it invokes tends to dissipate after about a week and you wonder if they were just saying that to be encouraging.

“The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

Sylvia obviously knew what she was talking about.

Publication of your work means someone who doesn’t know you, who has no vested interest in maintaining your happiness, thinks your work is worthy. This is what will finally allow you to tell the Inner Critic, “I told you so.” (And, in my case, “So shut up and go away!”)

Whether it’s publication of a novel, an offer to exhibit by a local gallery, or a recording contract, recognition of one’s work by The Stranger is surely the secretly held dream of all creatives.

And one last word from art critic Robert Hughes:

“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.”  – Robert Hughes

On this basis, I should have publishers banging down my door any day now…

 

 

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