My Time: A Haiku Poem by Rebecca Johnstone

I'm delighted that my Haiku poem 'The Creative Cycle' was included in the recent Scottish Poetry Library and Voluntary Arts Scotland anthology 'My Time'.

My Time Poetry Anthology, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

The call-out last year for people to respond with poetry to the theme of 'creativity' and how they spend their time really spoke to me as a creative person and writer. Last year was very busy for me and I didn't have a lot of 'spare' time, but I always try to do something creative each day. 

I would have liked to have sent off a longer piece, but a Haiku felt like the perfect balance of time and words:

Patterns mark my time

a kaleidoscope retreat

sketch, paint, stitch: repeat

I said with my response this piece was inspired by drawing and painting motifs to use when designing patterns, which is true, but I also like the idea of patterns as rhythms denoting and delineating my days, my hours, my life.

With a young baby to care for this is even more true for me at the moment, with the opportunity for dedicated creative time compressed and dictated by baby's naps and my own inclination. Time for us all is so precious.

I still draw and sketch, and watercolours are an accessible and easy way to get creative in fleeting moments. Words too create patterns and even the form of a Haiku poem is an unspoken rhythm.

It reminds me of my 100-days of Haiku 100-day project.

When I look back at those poems now, they are like a mini journal entry each day into my life right then. I love nothing more than documenting the things that are important to me, to capture them and remember them, but it's the tiny details of life that are important too.

When I was talking to a fellow writer recently about trying to 'capture' and remember these early days with my beautiful baby boy, she said something that really stuck with me:

You don't need to worry about remembering the important things, because if something is important, it will stay with you anyway

I love that. And it's so true!

I think I'm going to write more Haiku now...

Monarch of the Glen by daintydora

I haven't been around these parts much of late, but recently I got to see the original 'Monarch of the Glen' oil painting at Paisley Museum and I thought I'd share him here.

Monarch of the Glen, Paisley Museum
Monarch of the Glen, Paisley Museum

Painted by Sir Edward Henry Landseer circa 1851, our monarch is vital and arresting; not one of those disappointingly tiny real-life paintings like the Mona Lisa.

I mean yes she's impressive too of course, but it's nice to be able to take a step back and really see the image clearly, drink it in like it deserves and then step in closer to see the brush work and the cracks in the oil paint that mark the passage of time.

You can almost hear the rasp of his breath; smell the musky scent of his perspiration.

Sunlight catches the tips of his nostrils, the sheen of his flank and the tips of his antlers. He's a fine beast, proud of his reign over 'his' glen.

Elusive and alert, you'd never catch him in the same place twice.

Mountains and hills and bracken and woodland are his domain, come spring or snow. He's the boss of them all and nothing else matters but the next meal and evading predators.

Made famous through his connection with Dewar's whisky (and then the TV series 'Monarch of the Glen'), this royal heir to the Scottish Highlands is a symbol of strength and virility. I love the purple hue of the mountain backdrop too - Scotch mist at its best, hinting at crisp spring mornings or autumn afternoons with scenic views rippling into the distance.

Art inspired by local school groups was on display around the gallery, featuring their own interpretations of the stag. I particularly loved the poetry inspired by the painting, also by local school children.

Art inspires poetry and poetry inspires art. I love how so many genres of creative expression are linked and flow into each other seamlessly.

'The Monarch of the Glen' is particularly inspiring with just a central focal point of the stag. Something I need to remind myself often: less is more but in this case, it isn't less at all.

The best bit? I got him all to myself.

Just me and the museum attendant keeping watch.

Oh, and my newborn baby boy. He was asleep in his car seat, but one day I'll tell him all about The Monarch of the Glen.

The Monarch of the Glen, Paisley Museum
The Monarch of the Glen, Paisley Museum

Catch him quick - on until 11th March 2018 at Paisley Museum before he continues his royal tour.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland 2017 by daintydora

Black and white. Dim light. Bean bags. Red text. Lumière…

The scene was set for SHORTS at The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture and Design.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

‘SHORTS’ – a short films event – launched in 2016, organised by Graphic Design Festival Scotland and Pretend Lovers. With no restrictions on theme, genre or subject; simply that all films be under 15 minutes long, the open-call attracted entries from over 100 countries.

Waiting for the first of 15 ‘SHORTS’ to begin for the 2017 event last month - amidst a backdrop of curated International Poster Design submissions – also part of GDFS – felt like sitting at the centre of a cultural melting pot of creative talent as conversations in multiple languages mingled with the tempting aroma of popcorn. (Popcorn: essential to film-viewing.)

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

I found the experience a surreal and engaging snapshot of thinking from around the world, dealing with both hilarious and serious issues in clever and diverse ways. Not all the films were to my taste, but all of them had a strong message about life and what it means to be human: right here, right now.

The shortest of the SHORTS was only 1 minute 40 seconds (‘Life in Patterns’ by Vojtěch Domlátil), incorporating images of numbers, letters, diary pages, kitsch florals and the moon at a rate of 12 frames per second.

It felt naïve yet important, racing through pages full of text and scribbles and phases of the moon, then empty pages; white squares and black lines summing up a life and the patterns we create and adhere to (and often come to rebel against).

I felt an emotional connection to it as I watched, mesmerised; an urge to reach out and touch those pages addictive and powerful. All created in the mind of someone I’ll never meet yet it felt so intimate.

I wondered later if that film-maker was in the same room, watching us watch. It’s possible.

In ‘Salt and Sauce’ by Alia Ghafar, I felt the frustrations and disappointments inside Tammy, stuck working in a small-town family chip shop as friends and colleagues begin moving on to better things.

I felt her acute embarrassment as she tried to hide from a girl she knew who came in to buy a fish-supper, all talk of ‘the big city’ and Veganism and opportunity.

But Tammy has her camera and she has a story to tell. She’s a voyeur noticing the small details others overlook. She just needs that extra push to realise her own worth and her unique gift to the world.

This film reminded me of the important of fate (faith?), of how life/the world really does work in mysterious ways, and how you need both time and patience to assimilate your place and purpose. Poignant, cringe-worthy and optimistic at the same time.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Meanwhile, sometimes words are irrelevant and that’s how it was in ‘Maze’ by Eve McConnachie. It featured an enchanting and animalistic dance choreography shot in the empty - and at the time - still derelict Govanhill Baths in Glasgow.

I loved the interplay of the two dancers (male and female) as they ducked and dived against, between and around each other reinventing the space: the deep end, the changing rooms, cracked tiles and outdated signs and all the places in-between.

At one point just their silhouettes were moving in rhythm to the electro-inspired music, two pillars either side. Totally immersive to witness this piece, completely befitting the venue.

During the break (and also at the beginning due to a slight tech hitch), a limited-palette animation played on a loop in black, white and pinky-red.

Appropriately titled ‘Gastaloops’ by Nicola Gastaldi, it featured patterns morphing into sketchy everyday scenes – the idea being “to convey the atypical universe of the Londoner”.

The success of the event lay with each piece having such an individual take on life and each film-maker a unique perspective to portray in their 15 minutes (or less) of opportunity. It felt almost as revealing as reading a diary.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Other themes explored on the night include:

  • The selfie generation, technology and its pitfalls (‘5 Films about Technology’ by Peter Huang)
  • Unrequited love and the unfortunate distractions and interruptions associated with romantic partnerships (‘Life’s a Bitch’ by François Jaros and ‘The Kiss’ by Nia Syazwani)
  • Loneliness/loss (‘Closed Visit’ by Jade Evans and ‘Brian and Charles’ by Jim Archer)
  • The monotony and minutiae of day-to-day life, specifically against the backdrop of the nightly News (‘Life Cycles’ by Ross Hogg)
  • Schadenfreude and karma (‘Second to None’ by Vincent Gallagher)
  • Abuse, disability and being 'different' (‘Dawn of the Deaf’ by Rob Savage)
  • Conflict and war zones (‘Irregulars’ by Fabio Palmieri)

The last film – Irregulars – particularly struck me as it was a first-person narration of fleeing war and persecution, to find only abuse, hatred and exploitation at the other end, not the anticipated 'safe-haven'.

The film itself showed the inner mechanics of a mannequin factory as each piece moved along a conveyor to be cast, sprayed, coloured, assembled and boxed up for shipping.

Faceless faces and dismembered limbs. The same image cast from the same mould, yet individual too.

The analogy was highly poignant and affecting, the lottery of where you're born dictating the path of your life for better or worse.

The promo poster for the exhibition (also on the cover of an accompanying brochure) summed up what we all need to do. Film - and particularly SHORTS - being the perfect, immediate medium.

SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SHORTS, Graphic Design Festival Scotland at The Lighthouse, Glasgow

As the evening came to a close there was a quick, informal vote to see which film was the favourite.

'Brian and Charles' took it, with its comical take on loneliness and friendship in a bleak, rural setting through a man's relationship with a robot he built himself. Interestingly, that was the longest of the SHORTS, whereas I can't stop thinking about the shortest: ‘Life in Patterns’.

Overall a stimulating evening of film proffering an insight into the collective global consciousness at this moment in time, right in my home city.

NB. This is a sponsored post. Thank you to CitizenM Glasgow for a stimulating, creative night. 

The Inklings by daintydora

Following the idea that 'autumn is the new spring' - or even the 'new' New Year - I've been re-reading old magazines recently and finding that I hadn't actually read them all the way through the first time.

I was a subscriber of Pretty Nostalgic magazine while it was in print (and even won their storytelling competition back in 2013).

Through revisiting their gorgeous, thick, square pages I've now discovered: The Inklings.

An informal discussion group who met weekly in the local pub, 'The Inklings' were students/alumni - and their friends - of the University of Oxford in the 1930's and 40's, right up to the early sixties.

The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

Here I've doctored the pages from the magazine to create my own memory of the Inklings; from the plaque on the wall honouring famous members: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams, to a cut-out 'found' poem using words and phrases from the original article, by Peter Holthusen.

The Rabbit Room:

a wealth of stories

old Oxford eccentrics,

have drunk your health.

The Eagle and Child

artless emphasis

a framed hand-written

legacy.

The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

The Rabbit Room was a private room in the back of The Eagle and Child pub where the Inklings would meet. I love the connotation of it being akin to a secret, literary warren of discussion; the main purpose of the group being to read and critique their unfinished works in progress.

There were no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections. And as was typical for university literary groups in their time and place, the Inklings were all male.

How many of our current 'literary salons', groups and meetings will be remembered in this way? How likely is it to get such a group of talent in the same place, in the same room, talking and sharing as friends, now? Is it all online and hidden away in private social media groups?

I'd like to think not...but I think that's just my nostalgic side hoping beyond hope...

The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

The article also included a copy of a letter written by (Professor) J.R.R. Tolkien, discussing his reasons for writing 'The Lord of the Rings':

The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone
The Inklings, Rebecca Johnstone

I wrote The Lord of the Rings because I wished to try my hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.

J.R.R. Tolkien

I think he achieved his goal, and then some.

Seeing that glorious, almost calligraphic handwriting reminds me just how important handwriting my own journal and letters to friends, is to me.

Fonts and type and electronic messages are essential in the modern world, but how nice to return to the nostalgia of that bygone time; all those now-famous budding authors under one roof as they toiled over books known now the world over.

Discovering new treasure in something old is also a nice surprise.

Apparently the old copies of Pretty Nostalgic are becoming quite collectible now too, but I prefer to pass them on for others to enjoy - especially now I really have finished reading them.

'Inkling' also happens to be a great WORD - sign up to receive my fortnightly inspiration-mail for writers and word-lovers.

100 day project finale 2017 by daintydora

This day has finally arrived - the 100th day of 2017's 100 day project. Wow! Looking back now it seems like such a long time ago that I posted about my intentions for #100daysofthepunctuationproject, and despite the milestone posts along the way, 100 days is definitely quite a long time (almost a quarter of a year!)

So today, the big reveal on my final day. Did you guess what it would be?

Of course it had to be...The Full Stop.

The Full Stop: Day 100 of The Punctuation Project

I knew from almost the very beginning that I had to 'save' the full stop for the 100th day, but I wasn't sure how I would represent it. A mere ink or watercolour dot just wouldn't do it justice. It had to be something...more. More detailed, more creative. More time-intensive to properly mark the culmination of 100 days.

The more I used tactile materials like buttons, thread, wool and fur, I hit on the idea of an embroidery.

Embroidery takes a bit of time.

It's a considered yet contemplative creative project in itself, and for me it underlines the very ethos of the 100 day project, namely, that no matter how busy your life or your day, a few minutes of creativity is a worthwhile and calming time-out from modern living. That, and the cumulative progress of just a few stitches builds quickly into a finished and tangible 'thing'.

Despite all my creative experimentations, embroidery has never been something I've done much of (if at all), but I dug out an old hoop I'd inherited and enjoyed the momentum of working the needle in and out in the first summer colours that took my fancy: grass green or 'greenery', turquoise and pink.

My husband thought it looked more like a bulls-eye than a full stop, or just a decorative circle, and perhaps it is, perhaps it is all of those things, and more. Something different to each person that sees it.

For me, it is an apt 100 day finale; a celebration of the daily, creative habit I've maintained and managed to keep myself accountable to since 4th April.

And next year? We'll see!

View the entire project on Instagram. Thanks for following along :)

Around the world in 80 days (of Punctuation) by daintydora

Yes, not quite as Phileas Fogg did it in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, but it's day 80 of my 100-day project (#100daysofthepunctuationproject) and it feels like a worthwhile milestone to celebrate. The last few weeks I've strayed dangerously into 'symbols' territory, rather than actual punctuation marks, but I always knew there weren't really 100 punctuation marks to go round.

The point of the project is daily creativity and the formation of a regular creative habit, and on that front, I'm totally winning.

The Equals Symbol: Day 74 of The Punctuation Project
The Equals Symbol: Day 74 of The Punctuation Project

So far I've interpreted and featured familiar (and not so familiar) punctuation, letters, diacritics and symbols in a variety of mediums in:

English/American English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Czech, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Danish, Norwegian, Polish, Japanese, Arabic and Swedish. Possibly more - I've lost track.

And these have encompassed the realms of:

Spoken and written language, finance and currency, bookbinding and typesetting, mathematics, music, computer programming, science, law and electronics. Wow.

I've learnt a LOT about language as an interesting aside and hopefully I've retained some of my new-found knowledge for future use (or at least to appear super-clever in a Christmas quiz?).

The Tie: Day 56 of The Punctuation Project
The Tie: Day 56 of The Punctuation Project

Ever the multi-passionate creative, I love to capitalise on my tactile/textile interests, pattern design skills, love of colour and my graphic/hand-drawn style in ink and watercolour.

That's half the fun in a project like this to shake up the day and allow a cross-pollination of skills and ideas, but I must admit, this is my most bold attempt:

Basis Point: Day 73 of The Punctuation Project
Basis Point: Day 73 of The Punctuation Project

There's only (only!) 20 days to go, and I'm already working on the 100th day - what could it be?

Follow me and the project via Instagram to find out.

You might also be interested in joining THE WORD, my fortnightly newsletter for writers & word-lovers. Check it out here.

The No-List To-Do List by daintydora

Just don't write a to-do list at all.

Yep, that's right. Don't do it.

Don't write everything down that you need to do and overwhelm yourself before you even get started. Don't be a slave to your digital or paper guilt-inducing self. Just, let it go.

It's a novel concept I know, and to be clear, I'm not saying don't do the work.

But the no-list to-do list truth hit me right between the eyes the other night when I realised I still hadn't started a new notebook for to-do-listing (of the many fabulous notebooks in my hoard) because I'd been too busy doing the work. Interesting.

To-do list
To-do list

And it gets better.

Because really it's about priorities and what needs to get done TODAY, not just 'what needs to get done'. They say (you know, them, the productivity gurus et al), that in order to succeed you have to single-focus, and it's impossible to single-focus when you have a list of 100+ nagging things to do. Even allowing 3 things onto your list is a distraction, apparently.

And I get it. I've been there.

It feels cathartic to write it all down and get it out of your head, but then you realise someone needs to try to work through those tasks, and that poor unfortunate someone, is you.

Now we all kinda know the ONE BIG THING that needs to get done that day, today, tomorrow, don't we? It's not going to be easily forgotten without the aid of a list. If you're working on a project then you know that needs your attention. You could maybe write down a few areas that you want to focus on, but re-framing it in those terms makes it that much more palatable and less stressy. You're choosing to work on a few key areas (or one!) and that's a good place to kick off in the morning (or afternoon, or evening, or whenever you'll next be working on said project).

But the fact remains: the important, priority stuff automatically filters to the top of your mind because our brains seemingly can't let go of unfinished tasks. These tasks create continual feedback loops demanding our attention.

And that's what I've been experiencing. I haven't had a proper to-do list for around a month but each day I've been super-productive and worked through each task as it arises, prioritising the things with a looming deadline, the opportunities that I don't want to miss. Each day when I've shut down my computer put my computer to sleep, I've felt satisfied with what I've achieved, without the stress (or perversely, the satisfaction) of crossing out bullet points in a notebook.

And now that I've come to this shocking realisation?

I feel liberated - what if I never (have to) write another to-do list again?

I could allow myself to brainstorm ideas or plot out strategies or outlines. There's no ban on lists per se, but it's nice to think the tyranny of the to-do list could be a prison of the past.

It reminds me of this article by Tim Harford, partly inspired by Benjamin Franklin and his apparent life-long pursuit of a tidy desk (spoiler: he couldn't manage it).

The upshot is, a messy desk is ultimately more fruitful and organised than a tidy desk.

Messy desk theory
Messy desk theory

"There can be a kind of magic in mess"

And it makes sense.

A neat desk means business with no distractions, but all the things you diligently filed away get forgotten about - out of sight, out of mind - and not only do you forget their very existence, but when you start looking for that crucial piece of paper, research or must-have scribbled note, it's unlikely to be found.

Here's my favourite quote from Tim Harford's article, illustrating just how unhelpful so-called clever and niche classifications can be:

“Categorising documents of any kind is harder than it seems. The writer and philosopher Jorge Luis Borges once told of a fabled Chinese encyclopedia, the “Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge”, which organised animals into categories such as: a) belonging to the emperor, c) tame, d) sucking pigs, f) fabulous, h) included in the present classification, and m) having just broken the water pitcher.”

In contrast, on a messy desk, things have to be shuffled about and 'lost' pieces of paper or information (or wires and screws and circuit boards in my husband's case) are sifted and sorted on a regular basis because they are THERE, right there, kind of in the way.

The odd piece of paper falls to the floor and then you tread on it and it sticks to your bare foot and you suddenly realise: it's the very inspiration you needed, like the universe pointing you in the right direction.

It's a similar thing with the mind. The more unfinished tasks there are, the more little reminders flag up alerting you to this fact. A bit like an app, but infinitely more...apt.

Which leaves more time for actual writing and journaling and creative-making.

The upshot?

No list today: the no-list to-do list
No list today: the no-list to-do list

So long to-do list and hello productivity, my old friend.

50 days of The Punctuation Project by daintydora

Halfway! I'm halfway through my 100-day commitment to punctuation!

50 days can fly in, but the scramble to hunt out more and more elusive and exciting punctuation marks gets harder and harder.

I'm trying to be creative, inventive, interpretive, and use multiple mark-marking methods to share my punctuation finds, but I find myself relying on the quick and trusty methods of pencil, pen, watercolour and digital manipulation.

'The Manicule' was sketched using the ProCreate app on the iPad. It felt very new and exciting and a bit fancy to be using an iPad for the very first time (#latetotheipadparty)

Day 48/100: The Manicule. The manicule (☞) or 'the hand', hand director, pointing hand, pointing finger, pointer, digit, index, or indicator - was a favorite of Renaissance scholars, inked into the margin as a bookmark or aide-mémoire. Gradually, though, the manicule was appropriated by authors and advertisers, and today its pointing finger is more likely to be seen on A-boards than in book margins. It's pretty cool though I think; like a 'helping hand' almost, a handy companion in a lonely text? [Digital pen sketch in the Procreate app on the iPad] #100daysofthepunctuationproject #the100dayproject #100days #gm100dayproject #thepunctuationproject #punctuation #punctuationart #punctuationmarks #punctuationpoints #manicule #manicules #themanicule #thehand #pointinghand #pointingfinger #printersfinger #printers #typography #typesetting #digit #indicator #renaissance #digitalpen #procreate #procreatesketch #procreatesketching #ipadpro

A post shared by Rebecca Johnstone (@daintydora) on

Maintaining a daily creative habit by carving out a dedicated 5-15 minutes is often an achievement in itself because there's always so much going on. Life - and its assortment of ups and downs that have been particularly hilly of late. (Literally, life and death.)

Here's a few punctuation favourites from the first half of my #100daysofthepunctuationproject - only 50 more to go!

I've branched out a bit from the original palette of black, white and red, but there's still plenty of monochrome.

Yellow has become a bright and cheerful friend, as have green and blue.

Discovering the names of diacritic marks used in other languages has been an interesting education - I give you 'The Cedilla':

The Cedilla: Day 28 of The Punctuation Project
The Cedilla: Day 28 of The Punctuation Project

And I've particularly enjoyed creating a few 'punctuation patterns' using motifs from previous days:

Finally, The Hedera stole my heart:

The Hedera: Day 40 of The Punctuation Project
The Hedera: Day 40 of The Punctuation Project

Thank you to all those who are following along on Instagram and enjoying the daily 'Punctuation Project' discoveries by my side.

There are so many great 100-day projects out there and a celebration of creativity is in my mind, the perfect antidote to the day-to-day stresses of life. Onwards!

Battling Tsundoku by daintydora

Tsundoku: the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them.

I've always loved books and reading, and over the last few decades (I feel old writing that), I've acquired books at a rate much faster than I've been able to read them.

I read as much as I can, but it's averaging out at anywhere between 25-35 books a year.

I'm disappointed in myself as I type that number as I would always have described myself as a 'prolific' reader; mad for books, a lover of being transported to far away places in other people's fabricated worlds. But it turns out I'm as busy as the next person and perhaps not prioritising reading as much as I should be?

Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books
Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books

Hot on the heels of reading 'Spark Joy' by Marie Kondo of magical-life-changing-tidying-up fame, I realised that many of the books I was hoarding on my shelves had appealed to me at the time of purchase, but when I looked at them now I didn't feel in the least inspired to read them.

I went through a major 'geisha' phase at one point in my early twenties, and had managed to collect numerous books on the topic and by Japanese authors, which eventually spilled over into a love of Chinese fiction and history. I read Wild Swans in tears, and Amy Tan with intrigue and had managed to acquire a battered copy of 'Mao'. Mmm.

I realised quite happily there were plenty of books I could 'let go' and that I wouldn't miss; clearing a path for the books I really did want to read and still haven't. Atonement. In Cold Blood. White Teeth (I know, I've had that since I was at university - what's wrong with me?!)

Over the last few days I've carried three huge bags full of books to my local charity shop.

Some of them I've bought from there so it feels good to take them back; others have been like family friends. It was time to let them go and I don't regret it. They deserve to be read and that's not going to happen on my over-burdened shelves.

Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books
Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books

Some books I had read once and thought I might read again, but when it came to it, I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn't going to happen. And as Marie Kondo encourages: if you really miss something, need it or want it, then you can always buy it again...or get it from the library.

As a writer, I want to make sure I really am supporting my local library, so on the way back from the charity shop with my last donation, bags empty, I stopped in to see what was on offer and borrowed three new books. I read Kate Tempest's The Bricks that Built the Houses in a matter of days, and now I'm onto Jessie Burton's The Muse. It's good. (I loved The Miniaturist too.)

Now when I pass my bookshelves I can see the books I've neglected, the gold rising to the top.

Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books
Battling Tsundoku - So.Many.Books

Some books I'll always keep if they've been special gifts or are inscribed (to me or others), but you can't keep everything.

And in a few years, maybe I'll get round to reading some of them again. Or not.

I'm feeling lighter. At least 50+ books lighter.

My Tsundoku habit is finally under control, and this time next year perhaps my shelves could be almost empty, but I doubt it, and I don't think I'd like that either #booklove

The Punctuation Project: 10 days of 100 by daintydora

The Punctuation Project 2017, Day 5
The Punctuation Project 2017, Day 5

Since announcing my 100-day project last week I've designed and shared my interpretation of 10 punctuation marks in a graphic style via my Instagram account, and thought I'd share my progress here too.

I wasn't sure how I would represent each punctuation mark or even if I needed (or wanted) to have a cohesive 'look', but a certain bold minimalism seems to have emerged in a daring, limited palette of black, white and red.

I've used ink, pen, pencil, cut-out paper, card and letters, and computer-generated brush-strokes so far to depict:

Exclamation marks, the SarcMark, a 'cacophony of commas', the 'm' dash, a colon, square brackets, the Asterism (three asterisks in a pyramid formation), the apostrophe, double quotations and a question mark.

A dash of greenand yellowmight have crept in too. It's allowed.

The Punctuation Project 2017, Day 1
The Punctuation Project 2017, Day 1

There's still 90 days to go and I'm asking myself: what's next?

Follow the project and join in on Instagram.

The Punctuation Project: 100 days by daintydora

It's that time again. The start of April and of spring, when The 100-Day Project pops up to carry us through until summer. The 100-Day Project, 2017

I wasn't sure what to do this year, though I knew I wanted to do something.

2015 was my first year, and I chose Haiku poems. They were quite hard to complete at times.

2016 was words. Relatively easy, and the inspiration behind my newsletter THE WORD, continuing the theme of celebrating lexicology and language. (Read the latest mail-out and sign up.)

This year I thought I'd do something more arty, less wordy. Less writerly, but I just couldn't help myself...

I kept thinking about punctuation; the unsung hero of written text. I'm no Lynne Truss and I probably don't use punctuation correctly all the time, but I know how important it is. How it forms the skeleton of a story, along with paragraphs and sentences. And then we're back to words again.

"The Punctuation Project". It does have a nice ring to it doesn't it? The alliteration helps. I can never be accused of forsaking alliteration.

So my unique project is #100daysofthepunctuationproject which will also be how to follow along with my progress and find me on Instagram (the chosen medium of accountability).

We can't always see punctuation, but without it, we'd be shipwrecked in sentences and mired in unending narrative with no rhythm or sense. Punctuation is invisible in speech, but still essential. The pregnant pause. The stop for breath. The break after words in a list.

The Punctuation Project, #100daysofthepunctuationproject 2017

I'm going to start with the common punctuation marks classified in the English language and see what happens. In comparison to other years, I've simplified the work required each day. Perhaps some days it will just be a quick representation of the symbol, while other days will be more exciting:

Punctuation patterns, punctuation stories, or maybe even a punctuation library!

If I get stuck and need more symbols and punctuation marks to keep me going, I'll turn to the romance languages first, then travel on through the continents to see what inspiration I can find in other languages of the world.

The 100-Day Project, 2017

I'm going to use all creative media at my fingertips, both analogue and digital, and in doing so, see where punctuation can take me.

I'd love it if you'd join me with your own project or cheer me on from the sidelines. I'll post updates here of course. Have I just about used all punctuation marks in this post? Almost!

Punctuation has it's own philosophy, just as style does, although not as language does. Style is a good understanding of language, punctuation is a good understanding of style.

George Sand

Book Spine Poetry by daintydora

Next month is NaPoWriMo - National Poetry Writing Month - and I've been neglecting the poetic form for too long. I love all the experimental methods of finding new ways to connect words and make language interesting, so when I read about the art of 'Book Spine Poetry' recently on Brain Pickings, I knew I had to try it for myself.

Book Spine Poetry literally means to use the title on the spine of a book as a line of a poem. So simple yet so clever.

And it makes me feel a lot less guilty about my Tsundoku habit. I have plenty of fodder to work with.

Inspired by the art of Nina Katchadourian, and also the experiments of Maria Popova herself, author of Brain Pickings, I decided to have a go.

Here's what I came up with after a 5-minute bookshelf grab:

Book Spine Poetry, inspired by Nina Katchadourian

Primrose Hill

Summer of Love.

London Calling:

The Secret History

Book Spine Poetry, inspired by Nina Katchadourian

She Came to Stay -

The Black Dahlia

D.I.Y Magic

Book Spine Poetry, inspired by Nina Katchadourian

White Teeth

In Cold Blood:

The One That Got Away

So much fun!

I'll definitely experiment further with this technique using more of the books that are waiting patiently to be read on my burgeoning shelves (thanks Nina), and I'll finish with this quote:

I am always paying attention to the physical qualities of the books, and I try to work with their particular attributes as much as possible. The size of a book carries temperament and tonality, as does the way the text sits on the spine. A heavy volume with large text on the spine, for example, might be exuberant, urgent, pushy; a small typeface might communicate a voice that’s exacting, shy, insecure, or furtive.

Nina Katchadourian

You can sign up to receive free daily poetry prompts from The Poetry School throughout April. I'm thinking Book Spine Poetry might be a good way to go!

Hemingway House, Key West by daintydora

It was such a gorgeous day, the light so perfect and the heat waning slightly by the time I arrived at the Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West. Visiting Florida as part of a family holiday, this adventure to the southern-most tip of America felt very special to me, having accidentally followed Hemingway around the world (Paris, Cuba, Italy, Spain...) He certainly had the right idea about how to enjoy life.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

The house is open every day but shuts at 5pm and it took much longer to drive the US1 from Key Largo than I'd anticipated, having not taken into consideration the often 35/45 mph speed limits. (Are they strict about these things in the States? I don't know. I didn't want to find out.)

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Luckily, it was well worth the wait. And the drive. The drive was actually beautiful, the ocean on each side and the roads very quiet. What more could you ask for?

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

The house sits back from the road on a picturesque corner (on Whitehead Street and Olivia Street), with palms surrounding it providing plenty of shade. A huge brick wall encircling the property guarantees privacy... or maybe not:

Hemingway built the wall to keep out the 'riff raff' of tourists after his home was referred to in a tourist guide of the day, not long after he moved in. Ironically, tourists began to flock in even higher numbers to get their photograph taken in front of the wall.

Key West has at least doubled in size since Hemingway's day, and the house originally boasted sea views. There's even a lighthouse next door.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

But the first thing you notice - aside from the old colonial beauty and the deep hues of mustard and green amidst the palms - is the abundance of cats.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I think this tabby above is one of the six-toed tribe, likely to be a descendant of Hemingway's cat 'Snow White' who was gifted to him by a ship's captain. All the cats who live at the house apparently carry this 'polydactyl' gene, so even if they don't sport six toes themselves, their off-spring just might.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I thought it a nice touch they're all named after famous writers, artists, musicians and stars of the stage; a tradition started by Hemingway (now with a few wives in the mix!), and each name is then scribed into the cement/brick in a little area that is clearly the 'cat cemetery' when the inevitable day comes around ('Death in the Afternoon', perhaps?). Sorry!

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I took a moment to worship at the grave of 'Zsa-Zsa Gabor':

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Even the windows had net curtains featuring cats - would they have been Hemingway's personal choice I wonder?

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Inside, the house was set out with much of the original furniture, artifacts and antiques collected by Hemingway, but the most fascinating to me were bookshelves laden with his personal collection - the books he had physically touched and read - as well as memorabilia from the film versions of many of his books.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
The colours and shapes in details such as the tiles on the bathroom floor were worth much more than a passing glance, and it became clear that nowhere is off-limits to the cats.

The living room downstairs was dedicated to Pilar, Hemingway's Boat (also the title of a book by Paul Hendrickson that I took with me to read, but just didn't get around to), and a few more of his typewriters. I was pleased to note he wasn't particularly brand-loyal. Underwood, Remington, Corona...

"This boat is a marvel for fishing. Takes any sea comfortably and can turn on her tail to chase a fish."
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Outside, second wife Pauline's highly controversial swimming pool replaced Hemingway's beloved boxing ring.

It was the first and only pool in Key West by years, and ran well over budget, relying on manual labour to dig out the concrete because the use of dynamite was ruled out by the city. It was originally a saltwater pool as there was no running water in Key West until 1944. But it is a beauty - over 8ft deep. How truly decadent!

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I love the story about Hemingway's last pennywhich is embedded in the concrete in front of the pool. Or maybe that's just a gimmick for tourists? I snapped it anyway.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Not far away was Hemingway's other 'trough' - a urinal from his favourite bar Sloppy Joe's, which he brought home as a kind of revenge for the pool. Apparently he told Pauline:

'I'll get rid of mine when you get rid of yours'.

Oh the rage!

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Instead she added decorative tiles and an urn. It all worked out OK. She made the best of it. And the cats are apparently too clever to consider drinking from the 'trough'.

Finally, stairs lead up to a separate building, a kind of loft which at one point was joined to the house by a little tree-top walkway.

It served as Hemingway's office/study/writing room and I'm not sure if it was set up just how he left it - especially given the history of the house being sold on before becoming a museum - but there was a lovely sense of solicitous solitude there that made me feel close to the great man himself.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

It made me want to rush home and read more of his books as well as get more prolific with writing my own. And I say that having never really gelled with his writing style.

I struggled with A Moveable Feast. I couldn't wait to read A Farewell to Arms, then didn't.

I think there's just something special and charismatic about his life and the way he lived, battling many demons while traversing the world, like he was trying to escape himself in his pursuits. The sea, his boat. Living in remote outcrops: Cuba, Key West. Or maybe I'm just a sentimental writer trying to capture an ounce of inspiration from this big bold bear of a man?

But what a special place (and places) he chose to live.

I would definitely return to Florida, and to the Keys. Key West had a lot more going for it than simply the literary connections, but alas I had only scheduled one day in which to see it all.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Before traversing the slim road back towards Miami, I did manage a quick look at the Tennessee Williams exhibition. There was a lot to see/read and not much time, though I was able to view a collection of his first editions, albeit through display glass.

"There is no friend as loyal as a book"

Apart from maybe a cat - or is that just an oxymoron?

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

A life in Letterpress by daintydora

Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition

Last week I discovered Alan Kitching's 'A Life in Letterpress' at the Lighthouse, Glasgow.

He's built up an impressive catalogue, and is still going strong:

Alan Kitching was supposed to be obsolete.

The new world is one of microchips and screens. Anyone can write and typeset. The most basic word processing software will offer a hundred fonts at the swish of a mouse. Hand printing was for museums, wooden type for antique shops.

When others sold off their font collections, he bought them. And then bought more. He mixed colour and fonts to dramatic effect. He invested in the written word with visual power. Alan Kitching has become rather fashionable and in demand.

Alan Rusbridger

Well I love letters - they are the building blocks of words after all - and the individuality of letterpress-printing just feels so beautifully idiosyncratic and original in the modern world. I can see why "in a world of uniformity Alan Kitching's work stands out".

Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition

I think too that I need to 'up my game' when it comes to the header on my newsletter; Alan Kitching and I clearly share a love of the word 'word':

Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition

He also did the cover for a special issue of Dazed & Confused. The Word issue. (Of course.)

Here's a few more of the posters from the exhibition that stood out for me:

Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition

An impressive array of styles, colour and design. I'd love to try letterpress myself.

There were also some very nice letterpress books accompanying the exhibition and a free newspaper-style handout. 'A Life in Letterpress' is on until 5th March 2017 in Glasgow.

Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition
Letterpress, Alan Kitching exhibition

NB: The lighting and use of glass cases in the exhibition made it difficult to get better photographs. This is not a sponsored post.

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach Walk by daintydora

It's always good to 'Take Stock' of where you are (in life; with yourself), and the start of a new year feels particularly apt. This is the first year I haven't written lengthy lists of plans, ideas, dare I say it - resolutions. I'm OK with that. Instead I've spent the first days of 2017 just thinking, being, breathing.

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

Turning things over in my mind and taking my time before rushing into anything too deep and meaningful; catching up on reading and creative work with minimal digital distraction. It felt good. Hibernation could be my 'thing'.

A walk along the beach at Cullen Bay in the North of Scotland was a beautiful, wild way to welcome in the year, the sea restless with energy and alive with mystery.

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, ScotlandTaking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

For this 'Taking Stock' I've picked 12 verbs from the usual list (one for each month), to reflect on. This is me, right now:

Making: Cullen Skink. I had to really, having so recently visited Cullen and tasting the award-winning version, circa 2015. Drinking: Red Berry Suki Tea. It's a deep rich red jewel in a cup. Reading: The Outrun, by Amy Liptrot. It's wild and beautiful and it makes me want to visit Orkney (again), and some of the tiny islands off it, especially Papay. Looking: forward to our family holiday in Florida, starting next week. The Everglades. The Keys. Hemingway's house. Watching: The OA - highly unusual and gripping. GIRLS, Nashville... Smelling: peppermint and eucalyptus oils in my bath. The perfect (indulgent) winter-morning ritual.

Loving: that people are loving THE WORD, my fledgling fortnightly newsletter. Thank you to everyone who's contacted me to let me know how much they're enjoying it, and who've shared, tweeted and encouraged me - your support means everything.

Noticing: sunsets like never before. They creep up early in winter and feel like the most beautiful of the year. Listening: to Angel Olsen. Over and over. Especially this and this and this and this. (Which brings me to my new favourite thing to say when I forget what I'm trying to say: "the thing with the thing with the thing. You know the thing?" No, no-one else does either... Thinking: about rainbows and phrases and new words and word associations. Rainbow-physics. Never-night. Svengali. Leitmotif. Gesamtkunstwerk. Opening: new books and journals that I received over Christmas. Italian leather with lush, cream pages from my husband; a coveted Mucha scrapbook from my Mum. Feeling: optimistic and curious about 2017 and all it promises.

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

I asked friends and family about their 'resolutions', and was surprised when mostly they told me of things they're not going to do, something they 'need' to stop or cut out of their life.

I know that's often the way, but instead I'd like to focus on the all the amazing things I am going to do, plan to do, will do, and perhaps some happy surprises that 2017 will have in store. It just feels better to think like that, doesn't it?

Taking Stock: Cullen Bay Beach, Scotland

Midweek Poetry: Snow on Mars by daintydora

Does it...could it ever...snow on Mars? Snow on Mars

I don't know but this is another poem from my week-long Arvon retreat at Lumb Bank.

We wrote 'stream of consciousness' style for 10 minutes, with the trigger 'I remember when...' which took me bounding back to childhood (of course it would). The twist was it also had to include 'an impossibility' - thanks Stevie!

Snow on Mars

Sometimes there's snow on Mars:
grey, red, navy blue.
It comes in slow shapes
like the colours inside a kaleidoscope,
each day a different intensity
(though Monday's have always been brown).
I didn't like gravy at school,
murky water creeping around the side of the plate
urging to escape, like the un-dry damp
in the kitchen, obvious; a slow
Concorde cruising the wall between the cooker and the fridge.
And I'm knitting a scarf for the cat
in layers of blue and not quite black -
thank god I'm wearing my winter tights.

Just like The Etymology of Azure, this is the kind of poem I would never have come up with on my own, though using this fun and clever technique I found all sorts of interesting words and phrases that have taken me somewhere new and different, exploring the wonders of our galaxy and the impossibilities of science.

I enjoyed exploring a childhood memory, including my first piece of knitting after the obligatory 'square' that came out like a tattered rectangle. And Monday's are still very brown when filtered through my synaesthesia-tinted mind. How many others experience this?

And with Mars a world away, it feels like the real question is: will it snow for Christmas?

Good Girls Revolt by daintydora

I've just finished watching the first series of Good Girls Revolt and I've fallen in love with it. Good Girls Revolt

Based on the book The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich - which also spawned a TV series - the show is based around the newsroom politics of fictional magazine 'News of the Week' in late 1969 New York.

It tells the story of the real case involving 46 women working at Newsweek magazine, Lynn Povich among them, after they announced they'd filed an EEOC complaint charging their employer with "systematic discrimination" against them in hiring and promotion.

It feels so vibrant and so relevant, now, today, despite being set against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, the civil right's movement in America and second-wave Feminism. It's relevant because of those things.

I love the real stories - the history of our time - that cut through each episode, anchoring it to reality and forming the canvas for the stars of the show: Patty, Jane, and Cindy. I love Patty's spirit and boho fashion sense the best, but Cindy's personal transformation is my favourite as her eyes are opened to the world: what is possible, what she wants - and what she doesn't want.

Good Girls Revolt

Nora Ephron makes an appearance early on, quitting the magazine after she's told her story can't run because "that's just not how we do things around here...girls don't write".

A stand-off ensues as she challenges her boss and everyone stops to stare.

"If copy's good, it's good...you just said my rewrite hit the bullseye. That was your word."

Meanwhile, the fashion is fantastic: vintage prints and patent bags, suede boots and prim brooches pinned straight onto shift dresses and knitted cardigans - no waiting around for a jacket. And I loved the soundtrack.

But just as I sat down to write this, I'm heartbroken to discover that Good Girls Revolt has been officially cancelled by Amazon.

It feels ironic considering the final words of the season from researcher Jane as she asks for the 'opportunity' to write and be recognised for her writing, under her own name.

It should be a basic courtesy for work well done, words well-written. It should not be so difficult to achieve. It should not require a lawsuit.

Jane argues that without the extremely hard work and insight of the female researchers, the quality and therefore the success of the magazine would not be possible. And she's right. They know she's right. And that's where the story ends: I need to see more.

(And for what it's worth, I thought Good Girls Revolt was way better than Mad Men. Yes. I'm saying it. And I'm owning my words.)

Watching Good Girls Revolt gave me ideas.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to write.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to write on my typewriter.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to write about the things I feel passionate about.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me think of New York.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to be in New York.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to dress up.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to go vintage clothes shopping.

Watching Good Girls Revolt made me want to play records. (And last night I did play records. LoneLady in fact. 'Silvering' to be exact.)

Watching Good Girls Revolt was a reminder of important historical events.

Watching Good Girls Revolt was a reminder that we all need to stand up and speak out about the things we believe in.

Lynn Povich was eventually appointed the first woman Senior Editor in Newsweek’s history - five years after the landmark sex discrimination suit was originally filed. But will there be a happy postscript for the show?

Since Amazon's decision to cancel it, the cast have tweeted in an attempt to save it, and there is a petition doing the rounds which I've already added my name to.

Suddenly it feels like more is at stake than just a TV show. It feels serious, political and about having a voice and being heard.

Good Girls Revolt

I'll end with an on-point quote from Vogue.com:

Here’s hoping all of this backlash results in a second life for Good Girls Revolt - not least because it would be such a twisted, ironic end to 2016 for a timely, feminist, women-led show to get snuffed out by, yep, one guy.

NaNo Winner 2016 by daintydora

Since Monday I've written around 10,000 words. Almost 9,000 of those were about completing my NaNoWriMo Novel Writing challenge yesterday (a day early!), then some new ideas I had as soon as I finished, and then my personal journal in recording my thoughts and feelings about my achievement.

NaNoWriMo Winner Certificate 2016

It's been tough some days to dedicate the time I needed to my words. I've neglected family and friends. I haven't been writing much else apart from my NaNo-Novel (working title: Control).

But that's OK because it's been an immersive and cathartic experience, reminding me every single day that it really is possible to write 1,667 every day for 30 days, or 2,000 words, or even 5,000 words, even when you don't know what you're going to write.

That's the dream. Not waiting for the muse; just doing it.

My NaNo word-count total for the 3 years I've taken part now sits at 151,180 words. That's amazing! I can't believe I did it, but I did.

I knew I could do it but it's great to prove it to myself again (read my NaNo tips to myself).

Now I have a whole new work-in-progress novel I can take forward and do amazing things with. It will need work - a lot of work obviously - but the framework is there and I'm excited about the story. That's half the battle.

And I do love the glory of a downloadable, editable, printable certificate!

Now I'm going to pay-it-forward and donate to this amazing challenge so that it may continue inspiring others as it has motivated and inspired me, because...

What makes a writer a writer? Writing.

 

NaNoWriMo #3 - 2016 by daintydora

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has not been on my to-do list for the last 4 years. I first tried it in 2011 and 'won' (meaning I completed the target of 50,000 words written in the month of November), and then did the same in 2012. It was fun and exhilarating, but it's also a bit of a pressure, especially when you have other things on, Christmas on the way, a day-job...

In 2013 I wrote down all the reasons I wouldn't be taking part in NaNoWriMo - but now I can't find them. What I did find is this:

Words are my friends, they are my enemy. I need to write more, more, more and the backspace button is not my friend. Pruning is not allowed. Quantity over quality is my aim - I think.

It's not that I want to write crap and congratulate myself at the end when I (hopefully) have 50,000 words in a document. The idea is to break down the barriers to writing, to get SOMETHING down on the page that can be edited and re-drafted later.

Analysis is the enemy of the novelist; too much agonising over the correct word, crafting the most perfect sentence, or browsing the net in the name of crucial research. GET IT WRITTEN NOW and then you have a framework to play with.

This year NaNoWriMo feels right. It called to me back in September; a gentle whisper that gradually became an urgent: do it do it do it. Write. New. Things.

NaNoWriMo Tips - Rebecca Johnstone

I think it's because I've not been writing new work since the edits on my debut novel stalled over the summer (June to be exact), and ever since I've experienced the slow creep of crippling #writer-guilt manifesting in the following thoughts:

How can I call myself a writer when I'm not working on my book; not actually writing?

How can I ever hope to get published when I'm not doing anything to progress my work, my practice, my writing endeavours?

NaNoWriMo has become the perfect antidote to my #writer-guilt.

I'm a little over a day behind now - I was inspired back to my book edits (oh the irony!) - but I've started so I'll finish. I'm a 'pantser', what can I say?

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? How are you getting on? Have you done it before? 

Meanwhile, keep up to date with me, my writing - NaNo-related and otherwise - and learn a few new words along the way with THE WORD, my newsletter for writers and word-lovers.

Midweek Poetry: The Etymology of Azure by daintydora

I haven't written much (any?) poetry this year, so my experience recently at Lumb Bank was a jump-start to my poetic creativity. Stevie Ronnie was our tutor for the poetry element of the Book Art & Text course (check out the amazing paper books I made under Rachel Hazell's tutelage), and he immersed the group in language and words (my very favourite kind of lesson) through ingenious tasks and short games, even making up new poetic forms - the snake poem anyone? - encouraging us to inject a bit more freedom and fun into our approach to poetry.

For one of our lessons we had to write down our favourite word ahead of time, allowing Stevie to research the etymology of it and present us with the findings (though at the time we didn't know where the word was going to take us).

From there, we had to construct a poem using only the words that featured in the etymology.

My word was 'AZURE', chosen because of its colourful connotations and how it makes me feel - turquoise-y blue and free, like I'm swimming in the sea, the Med perhaps; the Côte d'Azur...

'Azure' in watercolour
'Azure' in watercolour

And the etymology was fascinating - more like a history lesson through language, culture and geology via the Mediterranean and Turkestan.

Azure is so much more than 'the blue colour of the clear sky'.

Some of the words that jumped out at me from the etymology were words I would never have thought to include in a poem, and I loved how they related back to the word (obviously) but could be jumbled up to create the story of the word, as well as a story through the poem.

These are some of my favourites:

  • Middle Latin lapis
  • false separation
  • molluscs which stick to rocks
  • Persian Lajward
  • cognates in Greek
  • the unclouded sky
  • French article
  • lapideous
  • heraldic colour blue
  • complex silicatea stone
  • a pebble
  • spangles of pyrites

They make it sound so much more complex and glamorous. I love that.

Words and phrases all with their roots in one word, but intensifying the meaning, shifting it, elevating it.

I've done very little work on the poem since I returned - it didn't feel right because I worked on it amidst the special magic of Lumb Bank (in snatches of time between meals!), presenting it on our final night by reading it out as though it was complete. And it is complete, for now. (Completely azure?)

The only thing I've allowed myself to change is the line structure - it's my area of weakness - and the title.

I thought it fitting to call it Lapis Lazuli at the time, because azure is literally 'a genitive of lazulum', but then I realised the title of this post says it best.

The Etymology of Azure

Pyrite mountains stand unclouded, proto-Italic and

essentially complex: dripping-rich

with limpets clinging to sticks.

A false sky beckons, blue, azure;

a genitive of lazulum

spangled pewter and gold.

Heraldic? Arabic?

It's the Persian Lajward

borrowed from before -

Marco Polo's short French mention:

semi-precious symbols

loaned from Latin

and archaic silicates

cognated in stone.