Monday, 12 July 2010

New laptop and life writing

I am a writer (that still makes me feel weird, typing those words!) and I have created a proper 'study' (come animal rescue centre come laundry room) and now, I own a real laptop. With daughters 1 and 2, we bought laptops when they went to university. This year, we bought son no. 2 one, because he is off to the University of Gloucestershire. Now it's my turn, birthday coming up, university place sorted, and so we stretched our paper-thin finances another four hundred pounds and bought a laptop. I remember the first short stories I submitted were on our old typewriter (I really mean old, it was antiquated even in 1978). Typing was physically hard work, and because I am not a touch typist, it was full of mistakes. All had to be tippexed out and retyped, and on the worst pages, lots of neatish biro additions and corrections applied. I kept carbon copies, a messy business of lining up a sheet of carbon paper between two sheets of A4 in the typewriter and then trying to hit the keys evenly (too hard and they went through the paper, too lightlyy and they didn't register on either copy). My daughter was born and ill a lot of the time, so I mostly wrote newsletter articles. I didn't get an electronic word processor until 1991 - it had floppy discs to save work on - fantastic. I picked up an old PC (pre-windows 3.1) in the early nineties and then, finally, to study my psychology degree, a 'real' PC in 1994. Now I have a laptop. Mind you, I'm used to XP and was a bit intimidated by Windows 7. Still, I mastered all the others so this should be a doddle!

My creative writing has slowed down a lot. It worries me, though some part of me needs a break. And the autumn is going to bring a lot more challenges and a huge workload, so I feel the need to get on and at least break the back of the A363 assignments. I have completed a first draft of TMA 1 and 2 and need to look at the next piece of work I could be doing. Part of me wants to have a play with the poetry option for TMA05, but I know from experience it just takes so long to 'knock out' one poem, let alone 80-100 lines of something. Also, that TMA is heavily weighted, so I really ought to stick to something manageable and that I know I do well. On the other hand, I'm only doing it for the diploma so just need a pass. If only I wasn't so competitive with myself...

One source of inspiration is the process I'm putting myself through. I looked at my partner the other day when he was doing one of the mundane things that a parent has to do, and thought how much I will miss him. He hadn't noticed I was watching (or even that I was there) and I had time to think about the strands that hold us together. We share so many threads - obviously the children and pets and the house. Woven into that are all his family and my family, his friends, our friends, my friends. But beyond that is the big strand of emotion that we have for each other. Most of the time, it's submerged into everyday life of sock baskets, peeling potatoes, shopping, parenting, work, moaning about the kids, moaning to the kids, paying bills. But when we go out for a meal we have time to look at each other and wow. There he is. The person I fell in love with. As I happily stretch some of those strands very thin - I need a break from being a full time mum, housekeeper, cook, animal nurse -  that 'love' strand is going to be stretched too. Lots of people have struggled to understand why we are doing this, and even suspected that we are literally breaking up. I wonder how that will feel emotionally. Fortunately we are both fairly resourceful emotionally - you have to be to have survived a lot of losses. And I'm only four hours by car away, I'm not heading to Italy or the US. But holding onto that experience might be stressful so I thought I could write a personal journal about it that can be a source for other writing. I have just read Blackwater Rising by Attica Locke. Apart from being a cracking good story she added a rational for the book in the last pages. The experiences she has included reflect her parent's lives as well as her own. At the same time, I just saw a brilliant TV programme on BBC4 called To Kill a Mockingbird at 50. It was by Andrew Smith and evoked memories of how I felt when I first encountered Nelle Harper Lee's story. So much of the character of Atticus Finch came from her own experience. So perhaps writing more of our own experiences is the raw material for fiction, even if it seems self-indulgent to me at the time.

Anyway, to meander slowly to a point, the life writing option of TMA 5 and maybe the ECA, is available, might be fulfilled by writing from diary material from this adventure back into education at a late age. Other people think it's extraordinary, maybe I can see if I can find an interesting way to write it.

PS If you haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird, read it now. Go out, pick up a copy, read it straight away. Then watch the 1961 film with Gregory Peck. Think of it as part of your emotional, social and spiritual education. Then spend the rest of your life working towards writing a book that is that poweful, that evocative and that popular. You may not get there (few have), but aim high.

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