Friday, 20 October 2017

A LITTLE BIT SAD



There are so many things in the world that make us exceedingly sad, the wars, the terrorism, the poverty, the disease, the low hosing affordability. I could go on and on. But then there are things that make us feel just a little bit sad, a sadness close to what used to be called melancholy. This word is one that can be better used to describe what makes us feel low, a bit down, one that does not drive us into the states of depression or anxiety so frequently diagnosed by the medical profession and drug companies alike.
No, the things that have recently made me feel a little bit sad are the following:

1. Hearing a designer of children's outdoor equipment state that 'We have to be more careful nowadays as with the old design children might fall a couple of metres and hurt themselves." This makes me sad that children have to be so protected. Learning about consequences was ,and should still be, a part of the growing up experience. Children need to take responsibility for their own actions. This includes not offending or hurting other people. If a risk is carelessly taken on a swing or a slide then you suffer the consequences. Simple. Risk taking and rationally assessing risk is part of  growing into a fully rounded human. We are taking away that humanity by making everything secure and safe. Imagination and the desire to challenge boundaries are being missed out by the young, as well as the absolute necessity to question and debate. Adventure is becoming an exclusive and expensive sport, whereas it used to be a natural part of growing up.
2. Next, I recently saw a person purposefully knock someone aside when they dared to query their place in a queue. Such a lack of courtesy and caring for someone else is sad.
3. When a bird flew hard against my window last week and fell to the ground I watched for a few moments as it struggled to get back to its upright position I felt more than a little sad. It died within minutes. I buried it. This creatures death was as a consequence of risk taking, flying against a glass object that was reflecting trees the bird expected to land in.  It was deceived of course by a man made structure.  Birds , while having sufficiently good brains for their own way of life,  do not have the same capacity as humans to judge risks and react accordingly.  Sad if humans become no better at learning about consequences than birds.

A very expressive word is sad.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

SNAKE OIL

Snake Oil. Now here is a word that means a lot to people of a certain age and not so much to others. I grew up watching movies about cowboys in the good old US of A and without doubt one of the characters in any film of this genre would be a man selling medicines of dubious quality and efficiency to people isolated in desert country,
or at least in a town far away from what was considered as civilization. What the liquid in the dark brown bottles consisted of was anybody's guess; sometimes alcohol, sometimes morphine or some such derivative, sometimes a chemical concoction that could kill rather than heal, sometimes plain old dirty water. Much faith was put in these snake oils simply because the vendor had a good sales pitch and often a damned good voice, the envy of many a preacher. We see this skill passed on to modern day CEO's of corporations in their 'talks' with governments or indeed to the politicians themselves. The concept is the same. Make a damned good case for a product (or a policy) , sell the idea as something good for the individual person, as if they are the only one that truly matters, and wham the pitch is swallowed holus bolus by sufficient people to make it a worth while enterprise. Of course, what all of these salesmen (and women) are doing is selling a dream and we all want our dreams to come true, no matter how far fetched or expensive it seems to be.
So when we ask what is in a word..well..the word is what sells the dream, or at least puts it up there with other desired offerings. The word is what spreads this desire, this grasping for what is desired as well as the pitch to sell it. The word, money, has a lot to answer for but then it is not the actual object (money) that is the problem it is the person using or abusing it. Money can bring lots of things, including happiness, or so I am told yet it has to be used correctly. Another word. A bit like snake oil that word correctly has many interpretations. Where did snake oil come from? A snake, I guess.
The last word must go to a friendly python passing through our garden on its way from its former home next door, disturbed by the cutting of grass, to a new home, which could be anywhere within a radius of ten kilometres.  Another word. Home. Oh what feelings that can arouse but I have already given the last word to a snake so I will close for this time. Let me know about any snake oils you know of. Just a few words will do..

Monday, 11 September 2017

I'M BACK AGAIN.


It has been some time since I was in this space but things have happened for the delay, namely the break down of my computer and the modem not working correctly and consequently my head in a haze and oh, a little travelling by me. So, now, I have a new modem, a brand new computer and, sigh, a new draft of my latest book to work on! Exciting and challenging at the same time. It's only words, as The Gibbs Brothers put it in one of their best songs but hey what a lot of time and energy and love goes into linking one word with another to make a story. It is odd to think of it in that light, one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time, one chapter at a time and eventually, with any luck, not only a complete story but a good one. I have completed lots of words, around 70,000 at the last count but I expect to change a lot of them as I do another draft. It is the thinking about what has been written that makes a writer reconsider not only what they have said but how they have said it. Writing for theatre, as I have done, it is much easier to decide on how much of the story is showing and how much is telling. The criteria of drama being to show and not to tell. In a narrative fiction this can be a little more difficult. How much do I describe in a garden setting? Does the reader really need to know how many pansies are secreted behind the rose bushes and what colour they are? Well, if the pansies become part of an investigation into the death of a character, then I guess it is an important detail. Those adjectives need to go in. Likewise, how much detail of the fabric of the curtains in a room is required? If the specific details tell the reader something about a character, such as he or she hates paisley patterns or is fearful of swirling shapes or wants only the best quality plain velvet in their house then this is something that tells the reader about that person. So each single word can alter the feeling or comprehension of a person or a scenario. So, it is only words that count and as a writer words are all I have (apologies to Barry Gibb) So, on with the telling and the showing in as much or as little detail as is necessary.
Note: I did not give the finer details of my new computer. Not necessary to explain my delay in writing this blog. 
I am now off to red the book of another writer I admire to motivate me to re write my work and to work towards making it better. The word for my current mood is 'good''. I hope it describes yours.








Saturday, 19 August 2017

New challenges

I have just returned from being on a panel discussing Fiction at the University where I completed my Masters Degree. It was challenging to be seated in front of a crowd all of whom wanted to know how we write fiction but also many who wanted to write a book themselves. Not many questions were asked of the panel from the audience yet there was much nodding of heads as a particular topic was raised, or frowning faces when another was discussed. Each of the five authors on the panel had so very different stories to tell and so many varied ways of going about it. It challenged me to consider my points of view on several matters but also how I approach the task of writing itself. I was alone in stating that there was no such thing as writer's block, serving up the belief that it is only a pause in the telling of a story that makes a writer temporarily stop and reconsider how the next sentence goes. My solution was simple; continue to write but something other than the novel they were working on. Write an email, a blog, a letter, a shopping list., or a sentence that describes what the next paragraph should be about. Or go for a walk or a swim or have a coffee while staring out at Nature or talking to a pet. All this is a distraction for the brain allowing it to recuperate and get back on track, to be fresh for the next sentence of the novel. The point being that it is only the pause of an idea that cannot be written down at that exact moment and not what is loudly proclaimed as writer's block. The other writers on the panel disagreed with my idea, which was a challenge for me, yet I still retain that belief. So while it is good to be challenged it does not mean we have to abandon our beliefs if they are based on rational thought.  This of course applies to many aspects of life, as well as in the fictional world of story telling. Passion in a topic can be instructive as well as destructive. It is for the mind to sieve out the irrational and be strengthened by the rational. My next challenge is to complete the next sentence of the novel I am working on!

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The power of the Imagination

One of the things that a writer needs most is the skill to transform the imaginings that tumble around in the head into something concrete, like a story so well structured that other people can understand what the words convey.. The result can be powerful in both emotional and mental terms, it can draw a reader into wanting to know more about the topic, or it can be dismissed as too tough to read or is not written well enough.

This interpretation of an idea into something solid is not of course restricted to writers.  Inventors need a great deal of imagination. In their minds they conjure up an idea, whether that be how to build a bridge, or use the power of steam to drive a train, or how to enable words typed into a platform to be transmitted around the world, via space.  And what of those people who imagined they could send a man to the moon. Then what of the people who transferred that concept into practicality.

It is the fortunate disposition of  humans that over time evolution increased our capacity to imagine and so prove ourselves to become the most prolific animal on earth, as well as the most wonderful yet dangerous of creatures. So imagination can be used for good or for bad, depending on the interpretation.

I set myself a task. It is one you can perform.I wrote a few sentences as the opening to a story.

"The way he talked it was obvious there was not much in the top paddock. Not that it mattered for the job he was applying for. A wounded wombat could do it. Still, he was the only one who applied, which was strange, considering."

The task is to now imagine where that story can be taken. There must be a dozen, maybe even three dozen, stories that can sprout from this simple imagined scenario.  SO GO FOR IT. Just write a few hundred, or a few thousand words, to complete a story.  Every person would come up with a different one. Such is the power of the imagination. It is brilliant.

Monday, 3 July 2017

OVER THE RAINBOW

Checking my photos the other day I came across one of a rainbow, almost all of it, arching over my house. Now there is supposedly some good luck in this. or is it only the pot of gold at the rainbow's end? Has anyone ever found this pot of gold? There's the rub. Who is going to say if they do? Searching for that pot of gold is really akin to what a writer does. There is that ongoing search for an event, an idea, a character, something that can be bound into a story that is not only valuable but entertaining and interesting for the viewer/reader. It does not matter whether it is a novel, a film, a TV show, a stage play. They all have the same need, to enlighten other people with their dazzling colours, their confident structure, their overarching ideas, their desire to please.  So, being the eternal optimist, I intend to look at my rainbow every day and recall the dozen or more publishers who rejected the first Harry Potter book and think that maybe some day my pot of gold will arrive at my doorstep via a worldwide publisher who is a wizard at marketing my books. Watch this space! Tell me of your experiences with rainbows, pots of gold or anything else to do with creativity. Love to hear from you.             



Wednesday, 7 June 2017

LOOKING FOR 'STUFF.'

PURPLE IS A COLOUR THAT REPRESENTS JUSTICE, WHICH IS WHY US FEMINISTS LIKE TO USE IT BUT IT ALSO HOLDS OTHER MEANINGS.  IT'S A BIT LIKE HOW I DO MY RESEARCH. I GO LOOKING FOR WHAT I WISH TO DISCOVER AND THEN ON THE WAY COME ACROSS SO MANY THINGS I NEVER KNEW . THIS NEVER CEASES TO  AMAZE ME. 
FOR INSTANCE, I RECENTLY READ THAT THE SONG, 'WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE' WAS NOT WRITTEN BY AN IRISHMAN, AS I THOUGHT, ALONG WITH THOUSANDS/MILLIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE. BOTH LYRICS AND MUSIC WERE WRITTEN BY TWO CANADIANS IN  1866. IF ASKED THIS QUESTION IN ONE OF THOSE TV SHOWS I WOULD CERTAINLY  NOT HAVE WON THE BIG PRIZE. 
ANOTHER THING I LEARNED WHEN DOING RESEARCH ON A DIFFERENT TOPIC WAS THAT THE MEN ON APOLLO 10 DID EVERYTHING THAT THE FAMED APOLLO 11 MEN DID, EXCEPT ACTUALLY LAND ON THE MOON. ALL THOSE APOLLO CREWS FORGED THE WAY FOR THE MOON LANDING, YET WE HEAR NOTHING OF THEM. 
AND SO IT GOES. I COULD QUOTE A HUNDRED FACTS I DISCOVER DURING RESEARCH FOR MY BOOKS, NONE OF WHICH I ACTUALLY USE IN MY WORK.  BUT THEN EVERY NEW DETAIL ABOUT PEOPLE AND THE WORLD  GIVES ME A BROADER PERSPECTIVE. WHO KNOWS, ONE DAY I MIGHT WRITE ABOUT A SPACE TRAVELER WHO WRITES FOLK SONGS?

I'VE ONLY JUST REALISED TOO THAT I HAVE WRITTEN THIS IN CAPITALS. I TOOK MY EYE OFF THE BALL FOR ONE MINUTE AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS. I MUST WATCH THE BALL CLOSER. BUT THEN I JUST MIGHT MISS SOMETHING.
ELSE.