writing

100 days of words by daintydora

Words. Words. Words. Words. We use them everyday, all the time.

In speech, in private, in public, in text messages, emails, stories, poems, chats, transactions, when talking with strangers and with loved ones. Sometimes we write them in the air with sparklers, or arrange to have them written in the sky.

I write every day (one of my 'mantras' I set for myself at the beginning of 2015); words are my currency, my love, my passion, the essential hard-working tools of my chosen career as a writer.

Last year I took part in the 100 day project pioneered by Elle Luna and publicised by The Great DiscontentInstagram the mechanism for accountability.

I chose to write 100 Haiku poems (#100daysofhaiku), although it wasn't a unique project to me or a unique hashtag. I didn't mind sharing.

Some days it was hard, some days it was easy. Some days I left it far too late to get a proper shot that looked 'nice', but the point was the act of creating each day in a big, unbroken, chronological chain of accomplishment.

I spent time breaking my words down into syllables, the root of their sounds and meanings, moulding them into 3 lines about what I was feeling that day or what was happening in my life.

Then I promised to make an eBook out of them.

No-one asked me to, it was just my own idea to 'complete' the project, come away with a tangible body of work comprising 100 days of creative output and effort. But I haven't done it yet. The guilt ebbs and flows. It will get done (I know it will - it's on my to-do list. Right after 'complete my novel'.)

I'm single-focusing you see. I have to get my novel completed. I'm three-quarters through the first re-write.

So this year when the murmurings about the 100 day project popped up, I decided I wasn't going to play along. I would eschew the tyranny of daily creativity (oh the misery of it!), for slow, steady, regular progress on my book. Nearly there, nearly there, I whisper to myself at night. Just another week, fortnight, month. Maybe.

But then on 100day eve, I was sitting in bed and I had the urge to write down a list of my favourite words. It was an act inspired by an art journal prompt, part of the Get Messy Art Journal 'Season of Lists'.

"Write a list, you could make it a hundred items long."

So I got to about 25 and realised it was a quarter of 100 (yeah, I'm simple like that). I carried on writing, squeezing words all over an A5 page instead of taking a new sheet, until I got to 100 and beyond.

100 days of my favourite words, The 100 day project 2016

All those lovely words crammed between lines and over lines; diagonal, horizontal, bleeding into each other.

I put my list away. I wrote in my journal. I read my book. It was just a list. 

Then the next day I saw everyone posting on social media about their 100 day project, about all the cool things that people were going to document and achieve between 19th April and 27th July. I felt like I would be missing out (the worst kind of creative FOMO?) and then I remembered my list. 100 of my favourite words, in complement to this starter for 10. It was a creative 'do or die' moment.

As the night ticked on I wrote down my first word, dated it, and uploaded it to Instagram under #100daysofmyfavouritewords. It's a bit unwieldy but it's unique to me. My words. My favourite words.

I'm doing it. I'm in.

Some people might think it's cheating to already have my list, but I think the creative commitment is choosing and focusing on a specific word each day, and part of the challenge is being experimental with capture, presentation and display. I want my words to shine.

Day 1: Oxymoron. White on black.

And so it begins...! Day 1: 'Oxymoron' @elleluna #100days #the100dayproject #100daysofmyfavouritewords #words #oxymoron

A photo posted by Rebecca Johnstone (@daintydora) on

Day 2: Gypsy. A fragrant herb-word.

Day 3: Yoyo. Coloured pins on a corkboard.

Day 3: 'Yoyo' #100daysofmyfavouritewords #the100dayproject #100days #100 #words #pins #pinboard #corkboard #yoyo #yoyos

A photo posted by Rebecca Johnstone (@daintydora) on

I'm giving myself these 100 days to get my Haiku eBook completed too, because sometimes you need a new challenge, a different deadline, the creative pressure to just get shit done.

Words.

There's over 800 here already...

The one where I turn down my first publishing contract... by daintydora

You read that correctly. I said 'no'. And I like saying 'yes' to opportunities, to doors being opened, to the magic of the universe making way for me.

But after a lot of deliberation and advice (thank you to everyone who answered my cry for help), my gut instinct on this was a slow-boat to 'no'.

The main reason for turning down the offer (after the initial thrill of excitement had worn off), was because it was for digital publication only (in the first instance) and my dream (however vain) is to see my work in print.

How could I have a book launch without a book?

So I said no, and now I sit back and wonder...was it the right decision? Will I live to regret it? What happens if I never get a publishing deal?

Slow boat to a publishing contract...the day I said 'no'
Slow boat to a publishing contract...the day I said 'no'

The truth is I haven't approached any other publishers, so as far as options go, the Writers & Artists Yearbook listings for UK publishers/agents is my proverbial oyster. Writing is indeed a waiting game.

Waiting for the idea. Tick.Waiting for the right time to start. (You should never do that. Don't do that. Just start!) Tick.Waiting for the words to flow and for the character to start chattering in your head. Tick.Waiting it out, biding your time until the story is written. Tick.Waiting to edit. (Words need time to relax and distill.) Tick.Waiting for the right opportunity. Saying 'no' to the wrong deals. Tick.Waiting to be noticed (never going to happen - you have to be proactive). Tick.And when the deal is finally done?Probably waiting for the day the book is available in the shops.Then waiting for the reaction.Then doing it all again.

But I love writing and I'm prepared to wait. Writing is my calling and my passion.

The characters and their voices want to flow through my fingers, their thoughts becoming my words.

It's the ordering of them that poses a problem. And the editing. The research and the finessing. No I like the research - it's where the book takes flight as the strands of the story begin weaving together.

The wildly scribbled notes and the nuggets of pure gold when you know you're onto something, a tangent, a twisting narrative path that could really lead somewhere, anywhere...

The whole act of it is like an illness, an addiction to the cause.

I'm waiting in the wings, but I won't give up.

I WILL SEE MY DEBUT NOVEL IN PRINT!

The End. (For now.) Tick.

Time: making do when you can't make perfect by daintydora

Last week I had some deadlines. Creative deadlines for things I really wanted to do - like writing a story for a competition and completing my first collage for the newly formed #collageclub with my #BWP friends. Instead of being able to immerse myself in the creative realm and embrace the rich seam of ideas that came my way (ideas, always, all the time), I felt strangled by responsibilities - going to work, keeping appointments, keeping a semblance of order on the home front.

The more I tried to clear a path to the magical time of creation and freedom from the mundane tasks of every day, the more 'stuff' came at me and I felt exhausted and frustrated with the effort of trying to keep up.

In the midst of this I decided to just let it all go; not bother to enter the competition I had so wanted to enter; submit my collage another time, later, not now, forget it.

I felt disappointed - in myself - and like I had let myself down somehow. Real life had won out over the alchemy of creation and flow and self expression. Perhaps there was a sense of relief too, as I had given myself 'permission' to give up my self-imposed deadlines?

Deflated, I continued with my collage anyway. And I finished it in time. How did that happen?

By not worrying about whether I did it or not, I just did it.

And although I really didn't have time to write a decent 1000-word story for the competition, I re-read the entry guidelines and realised I could submit a poem instead. And once this realisation sunk in, a poem started forming in my mind.

I began to scribble it down and all of a sudden the magic just started to happen and I had something to work with and it wouldn't be perfect or polished, but it would be something, and I would be able to enter the competition after all and by doing so I wouldn't feel like I had completely failed. At the eleventh hour I would meet these goals despite myself.

And I did.

Here is my collage.

Here is my quick-fire, hastily-written poem for the Scottish Book Trust competition, on the theme of 'Home'.

My favourite lines:

...My night, my sky -

high above

the Glasgow Clyde...

It may not be a winner, it may not be perfect, but it was the best that I could do, at the time.

It exists, it's out there, and by submitting it I felt not only pleased that I had managed to take part after all, but truly that it is the taking part that counts.

See what you can do in the time you have when you don't have time.

And if you are in any way creative, this video says it all:

 

Back to Jack (Kerouac): 15 Rules by daintydora

I enjoyed reading Jack Kerouac's 'lost novel' recently, but I admire and am drawn to the wild and passionate way he lived his life even more. His 'Rules of Spontaneous Prose' (or 'Belief and Technique for Modern Prose', as it was also known) could almost be 'The Rules' on how to live as a creative and as a vagabond, roaming the tide of modern life.

There are 30 'rules'. I have picked 15 favourites:

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy

4. Be in love with yr life

5. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind

9. The unspeakable visions of the individual

11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest

12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you

14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time

15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog

16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye

17. Write in recollection and amazement of yourself

20. Believe in the holy contour of life

21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind

23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning

25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it

29. You're a Genius all the time

In imagining all that life can be; the great expanse of dreams and joy and rich heart-fluttering happiness grasping at being alive and free, I am sharing my Pinterest board on 'Mantras for Life', which I turn to when I need some perspective:

Follow Rebecca's board Mantras for Life on Pinterest.

Or if things are really bad, my 'Emotional Rescue' board: 

Follow Rebecca's board Emotional Rescue on Pinterest.

I also try to consign perceived disappointments, set-backs and failures to a folder marked 'experience', attributing these thoughts to the messages we all receive around us every day that elevate the ideal of the 'American dream' (or the British dream) as the pinnacle of all achievement.

Success means different things to different people. And I choose a life of happiness and dreaming.

Read the full list of 30 Rules for Spontaneous Prose.  

 

Handwriting - a dying art? by daintydora

I love writing by hand, from the heart. Tapping into that brain/hand connection, and leaving my own unique imprint on paper or card.

Or the back of an envelope as I scribble down a to-do list (I have so many beautiful notepads of varying shapes and sizes, but time and again I return to the freshly-ripped-open envelope as these always seem to be available in abundance just when I need them.)

An example of 'handwriting'But as I touched on in a previous post, the digital world increasingly erodes the tangible, physical evidence of living and of life, and with it, the need to write anything by hand.

When I think of the kind of things I physically write on a daily basis:

to-do lists, plans, shopping lists, my diary/journal, a dream I have had, birthday cards, thank you cards, all types of cards, postcards...

I am lulled into a sense of safety on behalf of handwriting, because these things would not easily be replaced by electronic means. Who types up shopping lists? Really?

And what about the thrill of crossing something off the list - there is no better joy than scoring a line right through a task - and the accompanying sense of achievement and accomplishment. To get the same thrill electronically, you would have to highlight the word and use a strike through. Even typing that out is a bore. No thrill there.

Writers though - a term I loosely use to describe myself - often find it quicker and easier to write with the aid of computers and the latest technologies. Most people can type faster than they can physically write, so as the ideas are in full swing, it makes sense to capture them as fast as possible. That makes sense.

But are other people writing diaries and journals? little notes and cards? or does email and social media replace the need to, well, bother?

Writing a diary of course is more of a slow, meditative process, benefiting from the physical connection of thoughts from the brain, down through the arm and hand, into the physical words. And the best way to tap into your 'inner child' is to try writing something with your non-dominant hand, because this taps into the childlike memory of learning to write. I've tried it. It really does work. Scarily so.

Unless you can actually write well with both hands in the first place.

But as our lives get busier and our digital lives consume us further, will humans gradually (or perhaps quickly in evolutionary terms) one day lose the ability to write by hand? Will there be any need to write by hand? And if no need presents itself, will anyone be left who still wants to write by hand?

This is a concern that seems to be omnipresent, resonating with friends and colleagues alike.

And then I panic that I am part of the last generation who will ever use pen, paper and their own handwriting. In the future, perhaps handwritten notes, labels and diaries will become rare and unfamiliar; fragile reminders of times gone by, specimens of such preserved behind glass in the depths of a museum.

It's hard to imagine right now, because I don't think anyone is really keeping an eye out for handwriting. And writing by hand is still going on.

But let's see where we are in five years time...

This post was written as part of a Blog with Pip blogging challenge set by Kim from i heart tuesdays. The theme was 'Handwritten'.  Read Kim's post, as well as the response on this theme from others in the group.

 

*Blog Tour* - The Process of Writing by daintydora

Pass the blog-tour-baton! As part of a blog chain aimed at promoting, inspiring and publicising writers, I am honoured to take the baton from Michelle Newell, a writer I 'met' as part of the super-supportive and creative Blog With Pip community.

Michelle blogs at Lost Story Found, and last week posted an audio clip revealing her inspirations and process as a writer, complete with beautiful bird-song in the background.

Now it's my turn...

What am I working on?

This is a difficult question at the moment, as I am not the kind of person who can focus on one thing at a time. My mind wanders, I'm a dreamer, and I have an abundance of ideas that take me off on an adventure of tangents. I've been told there is a name for this: MULTI-PASSIONATE. I'm Multi-Passionate.

At the moment however I am obsessed with birds, and am working on a poetry anthology inspired by all the birds that visit my garden and their distinct personalities and mannerisms. Don't be lulled into the idea that this is a cute little project though: a lot of the poems so far are rather dark.

My other project is a novel. Actually two novels, both set in Glasgow and with very different themes. I have had dreams about my two lead characters (both female), and feel the threads of their stories coming together in my mind. I'd like to keep the plot lines a secret for now. Is that allowed?

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

All I can say about this is that no matter what the story, no matter how many times a theme or plot line might have been written about in the past - seemingly mined for all its gold - each writer, each individual, has their own, unique, distinct voice.

There are 'tells' in the sentence structure; in the words that are used and how they are peppered throughout the text which is akin to handwriting - similar, but not the same - could never be the same as anyone elses. So I feel my work - my writing - stands out in its own way because it is mine, my voice, my observations, and my story.

I think this is reinforced by this Martha Graham quote:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost."

Why do I write what I do?

See above quote!

All I can say to expand on this is that these ideas, these threads and ribbons of stories manifest in my mind and come to me in dreams, and I feel that these are the stories I need to write, must write, that only I can tell. It's a duty and a calling, and probably a curse too.

How does my writing process work?

It kind of doesn't - see all of the above!

I have the ideas and I scribble notes and I write things down and I make a start, but after that, a lot of the initial enthusiasm...dwindles.

More ideas come to me - plot twists, sentences, scenes - I imagine the characters and construct mood-boards to build up a better picture in my mind of the finer details. Although I love descriptions, I'm not the kind of writer who likes to launch into a description of a character first off - I'd rather leave that a bit anonymous and build in the detail over time.

Previously I have drawn out spider-diagrams for characters and story arcs, but ultimately it's about getting started, getting something on the page - be that paper or screen (I tend to type, as I type FAST) - and just diving in.

I always carry a notepad and pen with me, and keep these by my bed too for writing down ideas and dreams. Microsoft OneNote is useful for organising thoughts and ideas, but for writing, I just use basic Word.

I successfully completed NaNoWriMo (writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November) two years running, in 2011 and 2012, and found it very freeing to just do it, just WRITE, rather than worrying - procrastinating - by planning the details and doing research. Interestingly however, the two 'novels' I wrote for NaNoWriMo are not either of the pieces that I am working on just now. It was an experiment, a challenge, and it helps to overcome the perceived barriers of starting to write.

As a general rule, I don't particularly enjoy research either. I like to write about feelings, sensations, thoughts, reactions, experiences, and leave the factual stuff to those who excel at it. That probably makes me sound really lazy - I do like to make sure I have got things correct - but research doesn't come naturally. It's why my second career plan of being a journalist never panned out. My first career plan was to be a writer.

And now I pass the baton to writer and blogger Vikki Gemmell who will continue the blog tour next Monday (31st March).

Vikki enjoys writing short stories, flash fiction, poetry and novels. She has work published in the anthology An Earthless Melting Pot, The Bohemyth Literary Journal, The Puffin Review, Postcard Shorts, Flash Flood Journal and Multi-story.com. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel.

Vikki blogs about observations of life at Through the Looking Glass.