Writers Are Always Naked

A woman who built a whole sub-culture underneath a dress (1)

Today I’m feeling completely awful, because I’ve got yet another cold. Probably an airport souvenir. But there we go. I got my September issue of Vogue yesterday, so at least there’s some consolation. I’ve decided that instead of actually moving this morning, I can carry on writing. My head doesn’t hurt as long as I keep looking forwards, and not to the side. I was enjoying reading the catwalk show stuff, and reading about upcoming winter trends. Winter gives everybody an excuse to buy leather boots. I went through a two-year phase of wearing heeled boots every single day, with jeans. As a result, I have calves of steel, and six pairs of boots. Some people (especially my dad), would six is too many. However, you can never have too many pairs of shoes.

Clothes are people’s way of hiding things that they don’t like, and creating personas of their choosing. Wearing a sharp suit makes somebody more confident. A track suit is comfortable, but jeans can be as sloppy or as sensible as one would like. It’s all up to you, like wearing a shield. Even cashmere is like a protective layer, and it stops people seeing the soft and squishy bits.

Anyway, back to the task in hand. My novel. It’s going fairly well. I have ten chapters. I even have a rough idea of what might happen next. Not many people can say that. I wish I had somebody whom I could rely on for critical reading and suggestions, but allowing my friends to read it seems somehow like walking down the street naked. Letting people read your work is like letting them see you naked. That’s why I don’t very often publish poetry online, and it is why I tend to be less open about my novel to the people who actually know me. Do you beautiful writers understand what I mean?

There is something distinctly intimate about literature, and about writing as a whole. Literature can be a window into somebody’s innermost thoughts, but it can also be deceptively shallow. The depth of meaning can only be known to the author, and the meaning of a text is not something that he will ever have to reveal to an audience. Postmodernism toys with the idea of depth and surfaces, and becomes very much like cubism, or impressionism. What is there, and what is there not? There is no way of telling. You could get into a huge debate about the author function, and whether a novel exists because of it’s author or vice-versa. But in this [articular arena, where almost all of us are aspiring to be writers, screen writers, poets, everything, it seems unfair. Saying an author only exists as a story seems to almost void our own ideas of ourselves.

But there we have it. I am enjoying my own metaphorical nakedness. I might even consider letting other people see it, one day.

(:

(1) http://www.wildsound-filmmaking-feedback-events.com/images/marilyn_monroe_white_dress.jpg

©

Advertisements

Falling In Love: The Writer’s Life

Now, writing a novel has always been a dream of mine. In fact, it’s on my bucket list. I have a plan. And a very detailed character list. And a blow-by-blow plan of every twist and every element in the novel. There is nothing in the novel that isn’t in the plan, and I have begun, this summer to write the chapters. Y’know, the fundamental basis of the novel; the text. And I find it something that it is very hard to do part-time.

(1)

I’m working at the moment, however when I’m not working, at three o’clock in the morning for instance, I find myself perusing the ten thousand words I’ve already written, scratching my head, and wondering how I can improve the novel, the characters, and the flow of the novel. It’s a job I’ve always dreamed of having. Writing, is the only job I can really imagine doing; and thus this very blog, which is almost a year old now, was born.

I can imagine myself, in five years or so, in a house which has an office stuffed full of books, a comfortable desk chair, and my laptop. I could contentedly work there, for ten hours or so a day, writing down all the stuff my rather expansive imagination comes up with. I would blog, at the same time, and perhaps write commissioned pieces, editorials, and do some editing work too. I could travel; laptops are rather portable, as are ideas. Travel produces ideas, and creates different perspectives. One of my biggest ambitions is to spend six months or so, travelling around South America, and writing about it. Combining two of my favourite pastimes, it would be one of the best years of my entire life.

But anyway, I’m working on the novel. It’s gonna be interesting, and has a historical aspect that I like, because I am intensely interested in both of the World Wars, and the impact it had on families and their dynamics. I hope it’ll be something I look back on in a few years, and call it my first good thing; my first successful venture into the world of publishing. I hope that comes true, and I can imagine spending all my free time writing, because that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to be, or do.

There are some problems, with the writer’s life though; the first is that you have no externally imposed structure, and so you have to be well-disciplined, and able to commit yourself to work, even when there are a variety of distractions around you. The second is writer’s block. I’ve had a few weeks recently, where there was nothing I could say. I couldn’t write anything worth a dime. But then I caught a cold, and spent a week at home, watching old episodes of Friends, and all of a sudden, I remembered why I wanted to be an author. And when my new laptop came, and I did the thing, you know, where you sort out all the old files on your computer,I found the drafts and plans I made for a novel, about a year ago. And with nothing else to do with my time, I decided to start writing it again.

And frankly, it’s been the best four days of the summer, so far. Despite the raging cold, and an ability to talk like Darth Vader.

(:

(1) http://cjwriter.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/fountain_pen.jpg?w=600

©

On the Publishing Industry

As far as the publishing industry goes, I know very little about it. I know that I would like to be involved in it. And I know that it is incredibly difficult to get into the big publishing companies, purely because they’re just so competitive. The problem is less about your own aptitude for something, as opposed to finding a position that will allow you to pursue the career of your choice. Because in the corporate world, your dreams are just the same as another applicant, and you both want everything in the position.

(1)

The problem is acquiring experience and having enough initiative to search for the highly competitive internships that do exist out there. I think being aware of them is part of the challenge, and then finding out where to go from there is naturally difficult, but not completely impossible. I personally felt better about the whole prospect of searching for a job after attending some employability events, and realising that networking as opposed to simply qualifications, is the way forwards.

However, a note on talent; I feel that everyone has one, and it just takes longer to come out in some people. It’s always there, and I do honestly believe, even though I am known for being a tad cynical, that everyone has something. It’s hard to compete with people who have a huge amount of talent, all the time, but I think that’s just a part of the world we inhabit today. Once upon a time, people found a career and worked in it until they retired, however today, we’ll all have a number of different careers, and we’ll be wanting to move on, and upwards in the world, until we retire. There’s more of a hunger to be rich and famous today than there ever was; we all want to be something, or someone, or at the very least, we want to be rich and famous.

I don’t really know how I will go about being somebody, however I think my business which has started well, and I hope it continues to go well, will help with this. It’s not always easy, phoning and emailing everyone you know to tell them about it, but eventually you have to be accepted somewhere; it’s a law of averages. Eventually, someone has to say “Yes!”. Eventually however, is not a specified time frame, and everyone I’ve spoken to says that perseverance is key. Networking is also key. Talking and communication is key. It’s almost comparable to the Deathly Hallows, really; the three ingredients to worldwide domination.

So there we are. I love the idea of belonging to this industry, no matter which bit of it. I’d like to be involved in PR, and maybe even consultancy, but it’s so difficult to really define what it is I’d like to do. Which is natural, and it’s why people of my generation tend to have a multitude of careers, and areas of expertise. The agony of choice; that’s what’s made our lives both more delightful, and more difficult, all at the same time.

(:

(1) http://www.consumercareinc.com/grey_business_group.jpg

©

Today Is Business Launch Day!

So today, I officially launched myself as a freelance writer, offering services in the following:

– Proof reading
– Editing
– Commissioned research projects and reports
– Copy editing
– Commissioned articles
– Editorial work.

 

So, if you know anybody, or would like to discuss this further, please refer me to them, and get in contact with me through commenting, or adding me on LinkedIn. Any support I receive would be so welcome, and I’d be incredibly grateful if you’d pass my name on to anyone who might be in need of these services.

I am currently working on establishing myself as a business, in the editorial industry, as a way of gaining invaluable work experience, and if anyone has any comments or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact.

Thanks very much for all your support in reading my blog, and thank you in advance, simply for reading this post.

(:

©

On the Predicament of Routine

I’ve ever so slightly fallen in love with Microsoft Office Outlook, something I’ve never been able to use properly before. The calendar function is excellent; you can colour code every element of your life, scheduling yourself in until your heart’s content. The search for a job however is prevailing; I am simply desperate for a job at university, if only to find myself some structure within this abyss of living in toy town; university day structures just don’t suit me. Arising at two in the afternoon and eating supernoodles on a regular basis is now a banned practice: I will not arise any later than eight in the morning on any given weekday. On Sundays however, I’m allowed a concession: nine am, but only if I’ve been out late the night before. The general “feeling” and routine of university life makes me feel unproductive, and I can’t stand feeling so completely swamped in apathy, so I have to try to get up and out and get things done during daylight hours, to the best of my ability. And unfortunately for students everywhere, alcohol does not make a person any more mentally efficient.

The Microsoft Outlook Icon: A Symbol of Hope For the Fundamentally Disorganised... (1)

You see, all I can think about at the moment is changing things about myself; starting an exercise routine, a better skin routine, a new part-time job. I feel as though I need a complete change, in order to see a complete physical change. Having begun changing my routine in mid-December, I’m already starting to feel the benefits of a regular sleeping and waking pattern, and the lack of junk food and excess alcohol makes a huge difference: I feel far less sluggish, and I have a plethora of energy I didn’t know existed. I’ve gone so far as to start looking at spinning classes and gym membership, and purchased cropped leggings for the purpose of attending the classes. Once the money has been spent, I feel too guilty not to make the most of the service I have paid for.

On a general point then, I’m hoping that this endless amount of energy will fuel not only the functional elements I’d like to change; hopefully it’ll move to me maintaining my blog a little better, and writing a little more, and forming ideas for novels, pictures, and plays. At this point however I digress, into the land of the optimistic, romantic artist. I like to inhabit this beautiful land, because it’s full of hyper enhanced colours and diamonds in the sky. It’s far nicer up there.

And so in this vein, I venture to share another of my works with you;  again, I’d love to hear what everybody thinks of this poem. Since it is loosely related to the theme of writing, and seeking publication in general, it would be interesting to hear what people in a similar predicament think of a poem that could potentially relate to them personally. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Letter to Talent

There was never a chance this would work. Well,
Competition, was inevitable.
There is a large, empty space, on the floor.
Scorch marks, by the fire. My carbon footprint.
The empty bottles, clink. Shame, floods my face.

The letters, the postcards. The newspaper.
Inky reminiscent. They smoulder, underfoot.
Smoke from our forefather. He founded the
Words, and songs; the poems, the plays, to us.
Dedicated literature, burning.
Scorch marks into the hardwood flooring.

Memorandum arrived, all from London.
Messages; Dear Sir; Dear Madam; Truly.
Bundles of new paper, new ideas, all
Etched into fresh, shiny ink. Sketched our words.
Seeking approval, we bid for our place.
A place in time, a magazine. A book.
A place, somewhere, anywhere to belong.

To exist, in the world of creative
Integrity, is a paradox;
Constantly, overshadowed, by bigger,
More powerful talent than your own being.
Carcinogens curl around your pale throat.
Inhaling: Have you found the mystique of
Post modernism, existing beyond
Your own suffering body? Searching for
A reason to stop stamping envelopes…

…The posting out of the charred paper: What’s left?
What is left of soul? You would (screw) everyone.
If everyone was asphyxiated
In your soulful, poetic arms,
Their charred bones. Mind.

*
(But for this agony, of attempts and failure,
Whatever is truly owed to us,
Whatever will become of us.)

-Sarah Alice

(1) http://www.medlineschool.com/Portals/12654/images/outlook.gif

©

The Realisation of Complacency

Today, I made an alarming discovery about my mental and physical states of fitness. Which led me to immediately vow that I would change; become more disciplined, fitter, and more aware of food groups. This however will require some commitment on my part; renouncing my deep and everlasting love of Pringles and Chinese food, and forming a wonderful new relationship with the cross trainer in the garage, the swimming pool, and going for rather long walks. It will be tough, but the hardest part to me at least, is wondering how it came to be like this.

When you realise that you have changed, both physically and mentally, you can only wonder when you stopped noticing this change in yourself; what happened to allow you to forget that you still exist as a physical entity? And more to the point, when did you stop wanting to do better? I think this is the worst part, to me at least, because I always want to better at something. I’ve been like this since I was a little kid. I’ve always wanted to look better, feel better, and do better than I did last time, and I think the problem is that I became complacent of myself.

People never do better if they are completely and perfectly happy; perfection, it would seem, does not come from happiness. It comes from relentlessly trying to do it better, no matter what it is; whether it’s making a perfect cheese sauce, being fitter, or getting better academic reviews, complacency does not lead to perfection. A complete obsession with perfection is how people grow. This is where the experts come from. They emerge from their libraries, for only an hour a day, and then they go back in. They do it because they feel as though they are not yet finished, and they, fundamentally, never give up researching, looking into new projects, and writing books, because there is always the nagging sensation in the back of their minds that they aren’t quite done yet. Nothing is finished, as yet.

Sometimes, you have to just drag yourself up a mountain. (1)

This is how I feel most of the time too; largely, I feel as though I have barely started, and therefore complacency at this point is simply idleness and laziness. Therefore, as of tomorrow, I will be implementing a new routine which will hopefully combat this complacency. I cannot abide stand to do nothing, produce nothing; so I will be filling my days with productive hours instead of catching up on television, and I will push through the inevitable barrier of pain, and hopefully, I’ll start to see the results within a week or so.

The human spirit is essentially what allows us to improve because we want to do better. There are people who do not have this desire to have everything; that is entirely their prerogative, and every individual is entitled to act as they wish. However, I’m of the disposition that says I have to do better.

Like I said at the very beginning of this blog, I want to be a writer. That’s all. I want to be good at what I do. So instead of talking about it, and dancing around the idea of being this person that I have fashioned for myself,  I guess I should just knuckle down and start.

(:

(1) http://powerofpositivity.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/mountains.jpg

©

The Rejection of Rejection

For an aspiring writer, there is nothing so disheartening as rejection. When the letter or email comes through saying “you aren’t quite what we were looking for, for this issue,” you know that what they mean is that they simply didn’t like it. Or they didn’t think it was good enough. And this fairly soul-destroying mission, of despatching one’s work to publishers and magazines, only to have it rejected, is enough to make a person doubt their ability as a writer, and to wonder why you wasted twelve pence on a stamp in the first place.

This is where there should be a motivational speech, something like “of course it was fantastic, they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about…”. Except this isn’t true. These people have spent their lives in literature. Reading it, editing it, writing it. They might be heartless, but they do know what is good. They do know what they are doing. So instead of blindly burying your head in the sand, you have to take your work, and look through it, research where it might have gone awry, and maybe even rework it, and try again. You shouldn’t let your self-worth become directly proportional to how much an editor enjoyed your work, but simultaneously, you can’t let the essence of your work change. Remember that what you are doing is what you love, but sometimes you have to rethink how you write about these things that you love. But keep writing about them all the same.

(1)

The same sort of thing applies when one tries to find work experience. Cover letters, curriculum vitae, and sample pieces leave your hopeful little hand, and instead land on a far less hopeful desk. This desk has probably seen hundreds, if not thousands of letters just like yours and so naturally may be a little weary of them. And then the automated rejection letter pops back into that same hopeful little hand, and you feel a little bit worthless once again. However; we’re writers. We want to do well. And writers in essence, write. So we go back and write another cover letter, and keep posting them until finally there’s an acceptance letter in your triumphant hand, which means the first hard bit is over. You just have to keep irritating these weary editors and agents until they are simply forced to accept you. Someone will, eventually, assuming you are willing to take criticism and use it constructively.

This constant rejection is why the blogger-sphere is so important; we need constant and positive feedback. It’s human nature to want to have people to review our work, look at it, and tell us what is good, what is bad, and keep reading our efforts. The blogging world keeps literary hope alive when the big scary corporate people want to squash us, purely so they have fewer letters to trawl through.

So, in conclusion: I shall keep writing little letters, building my CV, and writing on my blog as often as I can. I shall keep writing, because, like someone once said, “I’m in this for the long haul.” It’s a very tough journey, but it’s extremely rewarding. Keep plugging away. Something will come of it, I’m sure.

(:

(1) http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/site_furniture/2009/05/26/paper-pile-page.jpg

©

 

Blogging is a Launchpad

In today’s world of instantaneous Internet access, where relationships can change in a second, it is vital, if you are serious about publishing and breaking into the media sphere, to be able to write a blog, and publish regularly. The instant changes that are possible via the Internet make publishing, editing, and writing the most competitive it has ever been; editors in publishing have to sift through innumerable manuscripts, picking out only the very best, and the most marketable.

Perhaps one of the hardest challenges for a writer is the ability to reconcile their true artistic will with the potential for it to sell to a wider market. Simply put, there is a choice to be made: whether one wants to make money, or whether one wants to maintain his artistic integrity. Being able to work inside a market whilst writing exactly as one wishes to is potentially impossible.

(1)

Blogging today however allows amateur writers to publish their work independently, and attract readers through their own merit, and of course, a little Internet wizardry. Everyone who wishes to can be a part of this community, which has spread over the last few years with an almost viral intensity; businesses, individuals, authors, musicians and academics all have some form a blog; a way to keep in touch with the real people who are interested in their work; and to this end, blogging is perhaps the greatest tool available in the corporate world; the ability to “put themselves out there” without seeking the approval of an editor, agent, or authority. It allows them to publish what they wish, publish what they believe is good, and receive approval or constructive criticism based on a peer review system.

There does however seem to be a sort of blogging hierarchy; ranging from the experienced to the newest bloggers (like myself) who seek advice from one another. This creates an informal network, with constant information available to every user of the Internet. Whilst this is generally a positive experience, the struggle to be noticed, commented on, and reviewed by one’s own peers can be soul-destroying in itself, because you could feel as though you are simply confined to the silicone scrap pile.

At this point, it would be prudent to look at the dangers of the Internet; identity issues, comment spammers, and those who act in a predatory fashion. There will always be the issue of Internet privacy, however with a little common sense, and informational discretion, problems such as this can be avoided. The key here is discretion; as with everything else in writing, subtlety is often the best policy.

For anyone hoping to start blogging as a way into the wider world, and as a way to explore different mediums of communication, I’d say go ahead, and never be afraid of commenting, following and generally being involved in other user’s forums. Being involved means that others become curious about you; and being shy on a blog is a guaranteed way to avoid people reading your work. Be brave, be bright, and consider what you want to write before you published; discretion is probably a good rule of thumb.

(:

©

A Classic Case of Writer’s Block

We’ve all been there; the moment where you stare at your computer screen, and continue to do so for the following three hours. During this time, words begin to lose all meaning and instead become small squiggles that no longer signify very much in relation to the English language. Your brain begins to explore the possibility of having yet another cup of tea, and what to have for dinner, what time you ought to shower, etc. But nevertheless, sitting staring at the computer screen, working at approximately three lines an hour, is what could be considered the journey of a thousand miles. What is worse is the apathy that follows, leading to procrastination, and watching endless amounts of TV, just while you “think about what to work on next”. This is the affliction that has cursed me this morning; an attempt to write an essay, ending in me staring at the screen, rearranging sentences, but writing hardly anything that could be considered coherent.

An Extreme Case... (1)

So, how to tackle the problem? Well, I’m not quite sure. But I’m going to start by switching off the essay screen, and reverting to the plan. And when I’ve finally found a new direction for my essay (hopefully at some time this evening), I will post-it note all the relevant pages, and start writing again. But for now, until that happy moment arrives, I’m going to attempt study group questions; at the very least, they provide prompts. The hardest part of university, without a doubt, is the idea that you are very rarely given a detailed description of what you must do; it tends to be your own ideas, and running on your own steam. Most of the time, this is a freedom that I adore, however sometimes, I get a classic case of writer’s block. The worst part of writer’s block is writer’s block  just when you have a deadline to contend with. A deadline in a week, in fact. And I am as close to finishing this essay (or working out where I’m going to go with it) as I am to working out the molecular structure of hydrogen without the assistance of Google. So, after my lecture, I shall make an extremely black coffee, and re-evaluate the plan and hopefully it will clear itself up. I’m sure I’ll unblock myself soon enough.

The problem is at its worst when I want to sit down to write pretty metaphors and lyrics, but I can think of nothing new and original to say. Not a new word or thought in my mind. And then I get frustrated, and feel worthless in my capacity as a writer, which is precisely how I feel now. Sometimes, I wonder why I decided I wanted to be a writer in the first place, and why couldn’t I have considered something that relies a little less on my own creative capacity, and focussed on something with a little more scientific basis; something where there is a solidly correct answer. And when I think about this, I tend to go back, and read through my blog, and have a flick through my favourite novels, and all my writing to date, and I remember, in the style of a true romantic, that I will always love to write, and it’ll always be for love as opposed to any logical factor.

This is what leads me to believe that my writer’s block will clear in a day or two; if I allow it to percolate, then something will happen. I’ll come back to it later, greet it like an old friend, and find a new way of thinking about it, as opposed to having to force through it. In the mean time, I’ll bumble through my study questions, finish off Mansfield Park and read my way through my anthology. Interspersed with tea breaks, and watching “The Simpsons”.

(:

(1). http://creativeconfessions.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/6a00d8341c928153ef0112796ec55b28a4-800wi.jpg

©

My Misguided Affair with Jane Austen

For a long time now, I’ve hailed Jane Austen as my least favourite author. Having suffered through Pride and Prejudice at GCSE and despising every second of it, I couldn’t bring myself to suffer through Sense and Sensibility. However now, I’m compelled to read Mansfield Park  in preparation for next term, and so snuggled up in bed with a pot of tea, I braced myself for yet another sitting room drama and social commentary. And was extremely pleasantly surprised.

I’ve always found the endless social details of Jane Austen nothing but intolerable, but when I began this novel, I was slowly brought around to the idea that I may actually enjoy Jane Austen. The story of Fanny Price departs from the diatribe that is (at least in my opinion) Pride and Prejudice and begins to explore themes a little wider than marriage, and the roles of women; she begins to look at adultery and themes of friendship. The humility of Fanny is endearing to any reader, and unlike Pride and Prejudice, there seems to be a little more in the way of progression and action, which as a reader, I find crucial.

Jane Austen's House (1)

In much the same way as I find Much Ado About Nothing intolerable, I like a novel to have an engaging and interesting plot, if only so that I can enjoy it on a superficial level, and to give some enjoyment to  the physical act of reading. There is nothing worse than having to struggle with a novel, reducing it to being an unendurable experience. Fundamentally, reading should be a positive act, something to entrance the mind instead of repelling it. By making literature inaccessible to everyone say a selected few, the author strangles his industry. That is not to say that Jane Austen is inaccessible however; only in my personal opinion, at least she was, up until now.

Whilst I haven’t quite finished the novel quite yet, I feel as though I’m going to enjoy it. I may become fascinated with her as both a person and a writer, and I think that after this novel, I will try to tackle Emma. Suggestions here are welcome!  I think my plan for the evening involves a small drink with my flat mates, an episode of Blackadder, and then an evening of Mansfield Park. What more could I ask for?

(:

(1) http://www.infobritain.co.uk/Jane_Austen_House_Garden.jpg

©