Friday, 31 July 2009

Facing the empty page

I have got an old copy of the textbook for A215, with the idea that, for once, I will be weeks ahead on the course. I will therefore send in all my TMA's early. I always think this is going to happen, but I'm ignoring the fact that I am royally behind on the OCA course. In fact, I have a year's extension and I'm still struggling to get the work in!

There's a reason. Faced with an empty page I do what most people do, I hesitate. I look at my inky boots and the sheet of snowy perfection in front of and can't bear to despoil its blank loveliness. So I read the first few pages of A215 wisdom and The Book says other people do this - and have strategies to deal with it.

So, I did a cluster thingy (Gabriele Lusser Rico came up with this idea in "Writing the Natural Way, 1983) for 'empty page' and came up with some nice ideas. Despoil was one of the words that came up, in fact (see above). Others that came up several times were 'fail', 'mess', 'untidy' and 'distraction'. 'Lunch' also popped up more than once. 'Crap' made an appearance. I am afraid of the empty page. 'Fear' and 'fail' cropped up the most. Writing makes me feel exposed and vulnerable. But when I think that criticism will make me feel like I have failed, I start to doubt it. I don't fear other people's criticism as much as I dread my own. In psychological terms, like all of us, I internalised messages about failure and success - none of which seem very relevant to the creative process. Paper was expensive when I was a child, I now hoard it, I can't pass up a bargain. I take paper everywhere with me, on holiday, in my bag to the supermarket, even in the car. This makes no sense, I feel sick thirty seconds after trying to read anything in a moving vehicle. I must believe that anything I do to the empty page must be worse than just enjoying it's white lovely blankness.

So, I write better on the computer. That explains that. But I think conquering the page with nasty, messy, rainbow pens, will be very freeing and therapeutic. The Book suggests getting into a writing habit. (Last time I had one of these I wrote a novel in 3 months, so The Book may be onto something). So, I pledge that I will write 500 words every single day, even if it is complete rubbish, and I will despoil at least one perfect, beautiful shiny piece of paper doing it. Let's see how long it lasts.

Thursday, 30 July 2009


Freewriting is one of the ideas used in various courses and writing books. The idea is that by rambling, stream-of-consciousness-style, either randomly or around a central theme, you unlock all sorts of creativity. The problem is, mine turns into a rambling therapy. Yes, I had a stressful childhood, I've lost a few important people along the way but does it all have to surface when I have a pen in my hand?

I'm trying to focus on a less emotive or retrospective theme, and keep the focus on that, allowing feelings that are immediate and contemporary to float up. Turns out I'm crap at it, so lots more practice. I shall have a go later and put it up on here. Hmm.

Meantime, my incredibly cluttered life is being painfully unravelled. I realise that in the past I have sorted out and thinned books, clothes etc. but NEVER ENOUGH. I still have things in my wardrobe from several declutters - as yet unworn. having the house cluttered just makes me feel like I have to sort it all out before I can do anything else. So the sort out needs to be comprehensive. Skip sized, not three bin bag sized. And I need to get rid of some furnture - which is all full of unsorted. carefully retained crap. It all just needs to go. So much of it is crying out to be used, and I don't have the head space to write as it is without competing clutter whispering from drawers and cupboards. Lots of the crap is there from the move - two years ago. So, sorting out is the priority and a major upside is that we will be able to move into the master bedroom and the cold, dark room can be the guest room. It's all about self-esteem. Important though 22 year old daughter is, I'm realising we might be way more important. So, while husband's is away, I will sort out and throw out.

Ooh, was I freewriting?

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Half way through OCA 'Starting to Write'

I'm part way through the Open College of the Arts 'Starting to Write' course and am finding it strange. I'm a better writer than I think I am but I have no idea when I am going right or what I do wrong, so I thought a course would help. It turns out, I cut the emotions down when I edit, so my first drafts are better emotionally than the final drafts, which are much better English. Not entirely helpful when writing poetry! So now I have written 4 poems for my first assignment. I didn't know enough about poetry to say whether they were any good at all but my tutor said they were OK with some ideas for improvement (and a lot of pruning). The message was, less is more, so I will endeavour to cut out unnecessary words on my next batch. Here are three of them.

Spring again

A stone shelter in the winter garden,
Where he loved to sit, stick tapping
Some private rhythm of his own.
Rustic and cool, loneliness enstoned,
I gaze onto humming, sunlit spaces.
Ivy invades, explores the empty window frame,
While green hellebores in full flower tip into decay,
Awareness aroused, softened grief spreading with sunlight.
Ash trees spread still naked limbs to the sun,
An oasis of winter in the passion of spring,
Saps rising, yearning, vigour seeping back.
Emeralds and jades top fresh shoots,
Dogwood bark glows, yellows through red,
Rainbows tint winter greys with pastels and brights.
Bees attend new flowers, abandon the old,
Birds call dominance and allure from every tree,
Bumbles accept mute offerings from upturned flowers,
As spring slowly conquers the winter garden,
Transforms the ravaged landscape.

Meeting the QE2

Nan is on the QE2, crooked teeth and brittle blonde,
Crimpolene amongst silks, organdies, gauzes and tweeds.
Passengers pose, elegance gilded, jewelled and refined
Between vibrant hats and shiny shoes

The QE2, sleek, precise, shipshape in navy and white,
A greyhound among mongrels and mutts, ferries and tugs.
Nan waves in her pools-win fur, squinting into the crowd
Too vain to wear her council house glasses.

My sister, Marilyn

Fading light, first lines of death,
Drowning with each white hair, lost
In a torrent of sadness and shame.

Marilyn was exposed and exploited,
Conquered by beauty and sex,
Possessed by images and film,

My sister, exposed and exploited,
Was conquered by beauty and sex
Controlled by lustful, greedy men.

Sprawled on rank harbour mud.
Investigation, speculation, pull her away
Tear at our shared blood and bone.

They slipped into a mythic tale,
A fantasy of passion and princes.
Booze and pills drifted them away.

Overdosed on life and finally free,
Beautiful in a Welsh mortuary
She dreams of Marilyn.

Spring again is about losing my much loved father in law, and the winter garden at RHS Rosemoor. Meeting the QE2 drew on a childhood memory, and My sister, Marilyn is about my sister, whose life paralleled Marilyn Monroe's, down to her suicide.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Beginning A215

Well, after a couple of years of procrastinating, I have signed up for a creative writing course with the Open University, and am impatiently searching the internet for clues. Clues that will help me maintain the bubble of hope and optimism that getting a whole exercise book full of 'A's in English at school (1973) will create. "You're really good at writing, you should write a book!" Thanks, Grandma. Now I'm ready for someone else's opinion. As long as it's very, very gentle and kind. Encouraging. Having done a BSc with the OU I am fairly sure how to prepare for, and deliver on a science course. So I had a sneak look at 2008's assignment booklet and it's scary. This may turn out to be a bit of an adventure, for my self-esteem as well as my imagination.