The Members' Blog
Getting Around the Block by Mary Campbell
It’s true that writers can sometimes be perceived as lazy. In movies and books they lie around the house surrounded by chaos supposedly dreaming up ideas for months on end with nothing on paper to show for it while their long suffering spouses/partners moan and complain about the mess. Perhaps this is the case for some, but I prefer to bash that stereotype on the head. I for one know that writing isn’t something you can set a time for. You cannot plan for ideas to come or words to flow. This does not mean however that many of us sit and wait patiently for our muse to speak or other miraculous light bulb moments.
I am part of a tight knit writers group who meet every week to share our work and ideas. Not only do we meet once a week but we plan events and attend literary festivals and readings when the opportunity arises. We also have monthly critique sessions for anyone who is working on a manuscript or piece for publication, and where others in the group will advise, support and edit the work together with the author. A weekly prompt guides anyone in need of inspiration for a piece of poetry or prose and we keep in regular contact with each other so that no one feels isolated when the words dry up. As they/I invariably do. I’m not saying that we are in the same league as seasoned published authors who have deadlines and other added pressures to live up to, but we all of us, aspire to be or at least wish to have our work recognised in some fashion.
That being said, writers group or not, writing is a very lonely occupation for the greater part and sometimes we begin to doubt ourselves, especially if like me you are still waiting for a modicum of success to assure you that you are doing the right thing. That it is not just a pipe dream. I think that letting doubt into the equation is the biggest stumbling block. Writers block comes about when a writer begins to feel there is no substance to their writing either as a result of reading a particularly awe inspiring book that they perceive to blow their own meager offerings out of the water or on seeing others in their circle achieving the success they crave. Negative reviews or critiques from those around us can also impact on someone who is already insecure and losing the motivation to continue.
Whatever the cause of the dry spell, I think we should always plan ahead, for ways to get around the block. A back up plan as it were. For example when I bring the kids on a long journey to a particular event or attraction I always bring back up a prepared set of alternative places to go or things to do. From experience as a mother I’ve learned that the elephants in the zoo are sometimes quarantined or events can fall foul of the weather, beaches are closed due to contamination and so on. Thus the emergency plan. Having kids teaches you the value of same in ways you will never want to forget. So this has also taught me to be better prepared for the slump in my writing. I don’t come from a literary family or school and my husband would as soon pull his eyeballs out as listen to me recite a piece of my work for feedback. It’s just not his thing and in many ways I am grateful. Having to listen to his disapproval could easily be my undoing. Better to keep that side of me separate. A marriage can only withstand so much.
I am no expert and in the field of writing I don’t think anyone can be an expert on all things literary. Writing is subjective and everyone’s style of writing is completely different as evident in some of the excellent award winning publications of late which drew on quirky writing styles to enhance their tales. Therefore a writer can do no wrong as long as he or she is writing something. At least this is what I think. When I get in a rut as has happened just this past month for no other reason than a busy family life over the summer holidays and lack of time to think let alone put pen to paper, I try to get back in the saddle by writing everything and anything just to get the juices flowing. I may write a blog, or a menu for a new dish I want to create for my children or even try to write a song. I am currently working on writing a speech for my brother’s upcoming wedding, unsolicited of course. Mind you the speech will likely never see the light of day, but I am still writing it just to see what I can come up with. If anyone ever needs a stand in for their best Man (woman) at the last minute, I’m it.
I’ve written some of the best wedding cards ever if I do say so myself and used to take bets on whether or not my cards would be read out. Most times they were. But invariably for a little inspiration I will just go for a walk with our high maintenance Puglet down the local green-way and just write about what I see on my travels. Every time I get a chance that is. Still there is usually something new to report, whether it is an unusual butterfly or bush or tree I cannot identify but find utterly enthralling or simply a commentary on the crazy kamikaze cyclists I nearly had a run in with. The thing is writing shouldn’t be just about waiting for some bolt of lightning new idea that no one else has ever thought of. For me it’s just opening my eyes to the everyday things around me and finding something new to say about them in ways that will inspire or touch an emotional chord for someone. Once I am writing it’s just a matter of time before the really great words come through. At least that’s what I’m banking on. I do know that writing is therapeutic for me and as long as I’m writing something my heart and mind are engaged and someday soon I will write something of note.
This is a little ditty I wrote for my kids while walking on the green-way at the weekend:
Christmas in September
I found Christmas in September
On a warm and sunny day
So many reds and greens on every bough
Splashes of colour every where
Dancing butterflies like twinkling fairy lights
In rhythm blinking off and on
Soft strains of music filled the air
Of soaring birds on song
Inky black berry and elder too
Hinted of sumptuous rich red wine
Berried white thorn like laden holly
Scented meadowsweet and pine
The solemn advent purple of sloes
And luscious fruit and nuts to eat
Were the bountiful gifts of nature
To make the festivity complete
(c) Mary Campbell
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