Bibelots

a place for the curious

Category: writing (page 1 of 2)

Take one blank screen and fill it with words. You may, if you’d rather, use a pen and paper.

Before too long

little girl stares out of a window

stories and words, she sees them everywhere

Okay, so it’s been a while. I don’t normally do blog-absence apology articles, so I won’t. I can’t. Because, damn it, I’m not sorry.

I’m sorry for the sorry state of the world. I’m sorry if you’ve been hanging on an article (but I can’t imagine you have). I’m sorry that this isn’t an eloquent moment to cure what ails us all. But sorry for not having been here? Most certainly not.

See, the thing is, I wrote a book.

It’s not my first foray into long form, but it’s the first time I’ve ever stood up and said, ‘this here? it’s a book’. Said it, felt it, meant.

As of right this second, what I now have is a complete unpublished manuscript. I’ve started pitching and all the hard slog that usually comes at this point. And I’m well into the next book. But, all of that aside, it’s done. My first book. Beginning, middle, end. First draft, second draft, final draft. Darlings killed, darlings slayed. Done.

So. Here I am, feeling exhausted and amazed. Ecstatic and somewhat bewildered. This writing thing is hard. Real hard. You don’t do it only for the potential thrill of getting published. You do it for love. Yes, you want to be heard. To have readers. To be read. What drives me though, what keeps me going, is the desire to tell the story. The love of writing. The love of words.

My writing journey continues. My joy for words is refueled and full of fire. It almost makes me feel guilty. Who knows. Before too long, transmissions might even return to some sort of normal.

The words will be spoken
I know all the action by heart
As the night-time follows day
I’m closing in
Every dog will have his day
Any dog can win

— from Paul Kelly’s “Before Too Long”

On the act of writing

The pen is mighty, so is the keyboard

Typists, the old fashioned way

Typing: the grace, the beauty,
George Eastman House on Flickr’s The Commons

After spending my whole day surrounded by words working on writing,  editing writing, and plain old writing-writing I come home and write some more.

Sometimes, of course, I don’t. I might do something visual, make something real or do something physical. I might even allow myself to be enveloped in the hedonistic act of reading.

Often though, when I can’t imagine I can fit anything else in my day, when I thought there was nothing left but sleep, I write.

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want do this. As soon as I could read, I wanted to write. More to the point, I wanted to write stories. Like everyone, I’ve had my ups and downs with it. When I’m exhausted, what I want to tap is boxed up and unreachable. Before computers came along, my hands would often cramp and I’d be dispirited before I could even begin.

I occasionally hear people say ‘the youth of today have lost the art of handwriting’. I’m not that young. I know how to wield a pen. But, actually, I think that’s bollocks. They know how to write. They also know how to type, swipe and whatever the hell else you can throw at them.

So, yes, I know how to put pen to page. I can fight you, sword tip for pen nib. I love a good fountain pen; dipper and cartridge both. I have notebooks and pencils for capturing fleeting ideas. But for the outpouring of storytelling, it’s the gentle, loving stretch of fingers across a keyboard that calls to me.

Let me describe it to you.

Open the lid. Watch the keyboard glow. Allow yourself a few minutes to disperse busy thoughts. Get it out of your system and onto twitter, if you must. Open your manuscript. Or start a new document. Don’t stare at that blank screen, it’s only going to stare back. No. Run your fingers over the keys. Oh, let’s just call it what it is. Caress the keys. It’s a slow dance of creativity and love. Ready?

Now.

Close your eyes. Feel your breath. Empty your mind.

And go.

Hours or minutes later, you’ll find me still. Curled up in a tight embrace of my own making. If it’s going well, I won’t even notice you’ve arrived. I’ll be somewhere astonishing, wild and new.

Pens, notebooks or keyboards. Oral, digital, or physical. Honestly, none of that matters.

What matters is that a story is told. Told and allowed to unfold.

The well

a mountain in cyan blue

Dark and brooding:
Curman’s Los Molinos

I’m occasionally surprised by how dark my storytelling can be. As often as not, I’m happier when I write about a brooding, towering mountain than a little, yellow duck. When I open the big book of writing, there’s often a dank, mossy well to draw from. It’s deep and it’s far from pretty.

I sometimes wonder where my ideas come from, but I really haven’t a clue. I doubt anyone does. I guess it’s a matter of ‘take life, stir and turn up the heat’. What boils over isn’t reality. It’s something else and when it arrives it’s barely controlled. It’s easy to go too dark. Just as it’s easy to get too silly.  However good or bad I am at this, I know that telling stories isn’t merely about trying to come up with ideas. It’s about control. Watch the beast grow, give it a name in the night and see it come to life. A realistic life. Does it look real? Can you smell it? Taste it? Touch it?

If you can you see the strings, I’ve probably done it wrong.

Every creative endeavour seems to be a little like this. There’s a freedom and beauty to creativity, but there’s also a lot of precision. Capturing the moment just once might take no effort. But do it again. And again. That’s what they call practice. Ultimately, it’s also a fine-tuned level of control.

Next time the ideas come calling, be they dark, be they feathered, be they scaled, I’ll be there. And one day perhaps I’ll even be ready.

Form an orderly queue

A black and white slide that says "grown ups enjoy reading, also

Source: New York Public Library
Visual Materials,
Lantern Slides

I’ve been writing a lot lately.

For a person who likes words,  this is nothing short of heaven. For a person who loves reading words, it can start to feel a tad unbalanced.  And it is a balancing act. The balance of keeping this world separate from that one. Of making time for the putting down of words, instead of the picking up of new ones. Finding yourself spending hours researching, rather than just revelling. It’s okay though. It’s a balance I have to strike. And one that I’m enjoying finding my way through.

Yet, while I can sense the balance scales settling in one corner, I can feel something new growing in another. No, growing isn’t quite right. I can feel it lurking. It’s that great, lumbering collection of book-ish guilt: the reading pile.

My reading-for-leisure has gone well beyond being just a bit behind. Right now, I’d be relieved to find only one  ‘to-read’ pile in our house. I wouldn’t like to count, but there’s at least a baker’s dozen of them. And each of the stacks is building, higher and higher. I’m not sure if they’re held together with gravity or a far heavier sense of duty. A reading pile has a unique shape and feel. What you see is no ordinary stack of books. That, dear reader, is guilt and duty, neatly bound. It’s a duty to myself and a promise to every unread page.

But we’ll make it, my papery loves – one book at time. A little patience is all I ask. Come, sit. Take a number and wait. Thank you, kindly.

Next please.

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