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.

Monday, 22 May 2017

NEVER STOP LEARNING

As a writer I am always researching. I ask a million questions every day. Not always getting answers I might add. I search not only online sites for a specific subject or in other people's works but just everyday things all around me. Just looking and listening is a kind of research, even if a little more abstract. How exactly does a bird flap its wings? What songs of a bird are specific to territory claims? Why is one wild wallaby happy to come close to me and stare as if really interested in what I am, while another bounces away at the first sight of me? Why has such and such a book sold millions when I, among many others, think it was pretty mediocre? And why does this best seller author get applauded by the industry so much? Is it that publishers pay for so much advertising and opinion that it rolls over like a stone gathering moss and so more and more people buy because it is apparently well accepted by the promotional companies? IS this a form of brainwashing? This last question leads to the one of why most humans are so easily brainwashed. Most of us have succumbed to commercial advertising for over a century. We buy far more products than we ever need, or, sadly we pay a lot more for them simply because they have a Brand name that has had millions spent on promoting it. Many more have succumbed to the belief systems of various creeds that promote their belief as the only true one, which in turn leads to dangerous results such as killing or injuring those who oppose your belief system. I write this on the day of such a killing in Manchester UK. Yet another attack against innocents, mostly young people who were simply enjoying music at a concert. It is a real tragedy, no matter who caused it and no mater what was put into their heads. No amount of research seems able to untangle how a thought can be turned into horrific action, which of course has been happening throughout the history of humankind. Us and them mentality seems to have existed since the year dot. Evolution hit upon a creed, survival of the fittest, while belief systems provide the stimulus. We are all flawed creatures to some degree and this is what writers write about. Writing about death and horror can ask questions yet sadly not provide answers. Back to the drawing board
.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

PENCIL VERSUS KEYBOARD


A recent event (floods) in my town means that not all shops, banks and offices are currently open for business. All will be open in the not too distant future but for the moment I am doing things a little differently. People's birthdays  remain on the same day and bills once received need to be paid. So, this week I have done something not done for ages. I actually wrote out cheques in my best hand, wrote carefully the addresses to which the letters must be sent, popped the cheques plus the butt of the invoice to be paid into an envelope,  slowly stroked my tongue along the sticky bit on the envelope, pressed the flap down, pressed on it, flipped over the envelope and placed a stamp in the correct right hand corner. This ritual was done for several bills due for payment. I had a nice collection of hand written envelopes. Strangely it gave me such a feeling of satisfaction that I grabbed some blank notelets out of my drawer, kept for unknowable emergencies and decided to actually write a letter to some of my family and friends. One was for a birthday coming up soon, one was just to check on the well being of a family member, one was a 'lets catch up on the gossip' type of communication and another were the basic facts about health and welfare of myself and family. Then I kept going until all ten of the notelets were used up. It was such a pleasant way to communicate. By writing in long hand I felt more in contact with the person I was writing to. Was it a much slower? process.  For me, not really, because although I type faster than I hand write I have always to go back and check my typing, and retype the errors, usually considerable. Whereas having lived with and loved words for so many years they not only come easily to me (years of learning spelling, grammar and vocabulary at school and Uni) but I can somehow pour emotion into them as well. I have to say placing my hands on a pen, then holding the notelet or bill in the other and passing on not only my words but my emotions is an incredibly intimate thing to do and I loved it. The result, a small but for me immensely personal pile of envelopes ready to be posted was a pleasant sight; bringing back the joy of receiving hand written Christmas and Birthday greetings, of receiving a letter from a lover or a friend, of being in touch with a grandmother who's letters were written with a nib pen and deep blue ink in a romantic scribbly almost Gothic style, with curls at the end of each letter. Each letter of the alphabet a work of art and  written with love. 
This might all sound like romantic rubbish, or nostalgic nonsense at least but I do find there is a great difference in writing by hand and by keyboard. I am trying to duplicate the intimate sense of communication in this keyboard blog. Let me know if I have achieved some semblance of it.
I also have to confess that the first draft of my short story collection, as well as my mystery thriller, were written in long hand before the second draft appeared on my screen via the keyboard. If asked to describe the difference for me I would say that I write with my heart with a pencil/pen and my head on the keyboard.  Both are important for any creative process so I think I will stick with this method. Most of my favourite writers do go straight to the keyboard and I bless them for their outputs. For them the keyboard wins every time. For me? Lets say fifty fifty.

Friday, 21 April 2017

THOSE TWO AMAZING WORDS- THE END


 Blog time again and as promised I am writing about those two wonderful yet ambiguous words; The End.
As a writer I love to write the two words that signify the completion of a work . They add satisfaction, relief, pride and a general sense of well being. This may  last for a few minutes to hours, day, even weeks. How long the sense of accomplishment lasts depends on how well the finished work is received, or not.
But, consider the differing contexts in which the same two words can promote an entirely different emotional state. The end can describe the finality of a relationship, a job, the age of innocence, the destruction of an icon, the disbanding of a group, the loss of a friend to someone else, and the least desired meaning, the death of a person.  While most of these events would initiate some kind of sadness or despair, there could, depending on the specific trauma be a release of relief or sheer joy, particularly if the end brought in a new, happier phase of a person;s life. We can all think of a situation where the leaving of someone or something, the ending of a relationship, can enhance our own sense of freedom and well being. So, the context is all.
Where does this lead? It leads to the confirmation of the wonders of language, particularly the English language, which has around a million different words, although most of us use only a few thousand on an everyday basis. Most writers are well aware of the possibilities of how just two words, can be used to signify almost anything if the context is correct. There is, I believe, a problem looming when technology defines language as having a less important role in explaining a concept or feeling. It is so easy to underestimate the power of words if they are reduced to a few letters and not put within the context and/or emotional state for which they are intended. This is not elitism, it is common sense, for language is primarily for communication, an exchange of thoughts, feelings, ideas and information. Images might entertain more effectively but words are what defines us as human beings. Other animals, birds, insects, fish use other senses to see, smell, touch and hear but only humans have the capacity for detailed language. It must not be lost.
A final note, the ending of the life of that incredible New Zealand born, Australian satirist John Clarke, whose brilliance made me laugh and cry at his every performance. His amazing use of language cannot be beaten. In a pithy ABC slot where he was 'interviewed' as a politician by his comrade Brian Dawe his response to the question what is Clean Coal was the short witty comment.."It's an example of alliteration." He turned the knife with a word, not a sword. Vale John Clarke, a man who knew how to use language for its optimum purpose, even if it only took a few words to say exactly what was needed to be said.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

READ OR LOOK



As a writer I of course love words. As a writer for the stage and screen I also appreciate the value of the visual. A picture can take the place of a thousand words, a few hundred at any rate.

Such was the case when watching a scene from that fabulous British TV show "The Vicar of Dibley".
Dawn French sat on the sofa staring at a bottle of whisky doing her best NOT to take a swig from the bottle. As a vicar she was being tempted. The way she spent between 60 and 90 seconds turning her head from the bottle to the picture of Jesus and back again, using her eyes, her lips, and body to emphasise the battle was a great lesson in comedic skill. Such a simple act and yet she made the whole process as funny as anything I have watched on TV. Not a word was needed to explain the conflict of her decision making. Of course the visual 'punch line' was that she gave in and gurgled the whisky straight from the bottle. I laughed and sighed with admiration for her and of course for the director.

This action would have been indicated in the script by the writer of course but it shows how an actor can add so much to the concept. It helps if a writer has been or can imagine being in the position in which they place a character or in a scenario in which they have been involved. Yet the fact that silence can add to a script is an important lesson for both actors and writers to remember early on in their career. So, while the audience would see the actions performed in silence, those actions would have been described in words. Dawn French, I love you. Words, I love you too. 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

IT'S ONLY WORDS


What a few weeks since my last blog! Words are barely enough and yet here I go. 

I was writing to a deadline. A book to enter into a competition. The style was influenced by a novel who's title I could recall but not its author. How remiss of me. I went online. I got side tracked and spent hours looking into everything apart from what I was looking for. All extremely interesting though. I gave that up and went back to the writing of the last couple of chapters. It wasn't working out. I decided I needed a complete break. I took a five day break. No writing. Definitely no technology. And so it was. No emails. No blank screen beckoning me. No guilt trips over the looming deadline. No Fb friends telling me about their dogs and gardens and grandkids and holidays and, in some cases, their writing successes, the latter always giving me pleasure even if they are only friends via Facebook.

The days were a lovely mix of museums, art galleries, book launches, visiting friends (real ones), the spraying of every perfume from every counter in the Department Store, eating food not generally eaten, drinking coffee too often drank and simply loafing about, watching and listening to perfect strangers. Everything digested with gusto, for perhaps future use in a story.

Then a few hours drive home in the rain. The deadline meant picking up from where I'd left off. It was not easy. I had all this other stuff' now in my mind, none of it remotely attached to, or useful for, the story I was working on. The words came slowly. The clock ticked. The rains turned into floods. Roads impassable. I had to finish and send off the manuscript. Luckily it was to be emailed. But then gale force winds arrived with even heavier rain. There was talk on the radio of trees down, possible blackouts. How to email without power  to my computer! I worked into the night. The deadline grew closer. Will there be time. Will these last rushed chapters be good enough.

The river rose. The trees bent wildly in the growing wind. It was now or never. A decision had to be made. I opened my emails. I sent off the completed draft of the manuscript. An email was pinged back. The submission had been received. I more or less fell in a heap, feeling the need for another five day break. No way out. All roads out flooded. Time for coffee, an early Easter Bun and a big deep breathe. Words can't express totally how I felt. Good is pretty close.