Author Archives: quercuscommunity

Procrastination – a Primer

I watched a programme about alpaca farming earlier in the week. One of the farmers had been a professional writer all his life and had fitted in a career as a circus ringmaster.

He was now fitting in life as an alpaca farmer with his writing. He said, as it showed him settling down to type, that the farming had helped him focus, and that his writing had improbed as he no longer had time for writer’s block.

I feel the same way about procrastination. It’s so hard to fit in when you have work to do. I no longer have the luxury of sitting at the computer wondering what to do, if I’m going to fritter my time away I need to start frittering immediately.

Freecell isn’t going to solve itself, and who will stroke the vanity of all those Hollywood stars if I don’t click to see what they look like now. or click to see what that man found in his back garden.

After I’ve done that I need to read poetry, because we all know we can’t be successful writers if we don’t read the genre we are attempting to write.

Then the shopping list needs doing. I forgot to add breakfast cereal to the list last week and Julia is grumpy because she is having to eat bran flakes instead of Weetabix. To me that’s like the doctor asking if you’d rather have eczema or psoriasis. (I’ve toned that down for a family audience, and taken the opportunity to show off my spelling, in case you didn’t notice).

I’d rather have porridge, but I prefer lying under the covers until the last minute, whimpering about getting up on a cold, dark, morning. Normally I zoom downstairs late, splash milk on something that promises to deliver health and high fibre, and plough through it. Frankly, weekday breakfasts are a penance rather than a pleasure, but even after twenty years as a non-smoker I haven’t found anything to replace cigarettes and tea as the perfect start to the day. Apart from Sunday, when I favour fried food. Healthy choices do not come easily to me.

Time to serve up the tea now. It’s ratatouille served in the style of a pasta bake. I’m trying to sound enthusiastic, but it’s hard when you really want a Chinese takeaway…

Thoughts on Rejection

I’ve had five rejections in the last month and have had several different reactions.

A feeling of being rejected was, strangely, not one of the reactions. A rejection, in this sense, is only the expression of one editor’s view on that particular day.

One of them was quite interesting, as it involved haiku. I don’t usually write them, despite them being an essential part of a haibun, and it’s something I should do more often. I’m resigned to them being rejected but every so often I submit some anyway to see what people think.

My most recent attempts bounced back with the news that only a third of submissions had any success, and telling me which two had been considered the strongest candidates. I don’t feel too bad about rejection when I know two out of three are rejected.

Two submissions bounced back within days, which I always take as a sign they weren’t even close. There’s not much you can say about that. I probably should learn to be more analytical and to send things that match the content of the magazine. I can do that in one case.

The other case was a guest editor, and it’s slightly more difficult to guess what they want, particularly when they don’t give you a clue. It can, of course, be tricky working out what they want when they do give you a clue. They told me they weren’t a good fit for that issue. I am as wise after reading that comment a dozen times as I was before I read it the first time.

I suppose it’s difficult finding ways to reject people without insulting them or giving them something to argue about.

One of the other submissions was returned with no further information. That was fair, as the submissions weren’t particularly good. It was another guest editor job and I’d sent two pieces which weren’t really finished because I thought they matched the style of the guest editor, an error I won’t make again. I hate being made to look unprofessional, even if I do it to myself.

The final one was returned with the observation that the haiku didn’t add depth to the prose as they were too similar. That’s a comment I’ve had before.

The other comment I have had before is that the haiku don’t harmonise with the prose and therefore fail to add depth.

It’s very difficult knowing what to do. Are your haiku too similar or too dissimilar? And will they be the same tomorrow? Maybe I just suffer from shallow haiku. It just occurred to me that my fascination for improper acronyms could have a field day with Shallow Haiku. As they generally come at the end, I could say that the trouble with my haibun is that they are Shallow Haiku in Termination.

One of those Quick Posts

Remember when you were a small child and water was always colder? Well, it was if you were a small child in the UK. Swimming pools weren’t heated then and the sea was always cold. Come to think of it, swimming pools didn’t always have a roof. And sun was something that, apart from one week in summer, only foreigners had.

Anyway, the best way of entering the water was always to throw yourself in and get it over with. You might gasp a bit, but at least it was done.

Well, I’m feeling that way about posting tonight. I’ve tried several starts, and nothing good has come from it, so this is the modern writing equivalent of that leap into cold water.

Currently I have done half the unofficial target of 250 words I set myself, and I have managed to do it without actually having anything to say. If I carry on at this rate I may end up with a career in politics.

I’ve noticed a growing tendency in politicians to give longer answers as the epidemic has progressed (that’s Covid, not the epidemic of political lying and ineptitude that has been such a noticeable bi-product of the Covid epidemic).

Julia mentioned it recently while we were watching the news. It’s a good tactic. Instead of avoiding, or evading, you look like you are honestly trying to answer the question, and because you take so long doing it, you run out of time and they can’t ask you more difficult questions.

It’s a brilliant system and, a bit like tonight, you end up filling the time without actually doing anything useful.

And that, I think you will find, is my target of 250 words done, and nothing useful has been said.

In fact, at 292 words, my target is rapidly fading into the dust behind me, and 300 is rapidly coming into view. And has been passed…

It’s amazing what you can do when you get your head down and start throwing words onto a page.

A photograph of a pen, some tags, and that’s me done.

 

Looks Like I Might Be Lucky Again

Work was work. It was neither good nor bad, though at one point it did grow a little frustrating. One customer is telling us we have charged him too much postage and packing, despite us already reducing it a lot because he has bought in bulk. I think he forgets that eBay charges us commission on the P&P too, and there is a cost to putting a parcel together.

Another want a tracking number, despite the fact he didn’t pay for a tracked postal service.

And yet another is hanging on and making excuses for not paying.

I can see some of this heading towards “lost” parcels and refunds. It strikes me that the world is becoming a less honest place and fewer and fewer people are prepared to accept responsibility for their own mistakes.

After work I went to pick a prescription up. This, for once, didn’t involve much queueing – I was able to get into the shop immediately and once the two people in front had been served my prescription was dispensed quickly and accurately. All the staff were wearing masks too, which had not been the case last time.

We had a TESCO delivery, which went well, though they insist on using the large bags that I find difficult with my arthritis.

I had an email to tell me about my Lottery win (no, I didn’t win the £10,000 a month for 30 years that I dream of. I won £5. I will invest it in more tickets.  At least it’s good luck rather than bad luck.

Looks like my luck could be changing.

Then I fell asleep again and missed my midnight deadline.

Time to make sandwiches now.

Tree Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire - dramatic setting

Dreams of Lottery Wins

We didn’t, I must confess, get much work done today. Well, not much work of a decluttering nature. I spent most of the morning writing instead of working and Julia spent most of the day preparing for an art session she is running tomorrow. It won’t be appreciated by the organisation, though the clients will enjoy it. That seems to be the  way of things at the moment. Normally, when I dream of winning the lottery, I see myself giving a month’s notice and acting as a responsible employee should.

However, if we win enough (my normal £2 win won’t be enough, I’m afraid) I’m going to take great pleasure in listening to Julia’s end of the phone call where she rings up the morning after the win and hands in her notice instantly.

There’s a £70 million rollover on Friday. If I win that I will suggest that we retire early.

Then I locked my keyboard. Not entirely sure how I did it, but I did. The computer was supposed to be off but it switched itself on and when I got back to it, after stacking stuff all over the table, there were messages on the screen. One must have related to locking the keyboard, because that is what happened.

I got Julia to look up how to unlock a keyboard, but it didn’t work. So I tried the old keyboard we had hanging around. It wouldn’t plug into the back of the computer. Fortunately we had a third one, the one I used to use with my laptop on the farm (yes, we really do need to declutter – but look how useful it is to have three keyboards). This one plugs into a USB port and fortunately the computer, though old, does have several, so I was able to connect it up and get going. I really do hate computers…

…and computers feel the same way about me.

If I win the £70 million at the weekend I will probably get a new computer too. But mainly I will buy myself a house enclosed in a bubble, with filtered air and an airlock for a door so the grocery delivery man can deliver them without breathing on me. Let nobody accuse me of not taking Covid seriously.

This is not at all like I used to dream of spending my lottery winnings.

Sea Buckthorn

Porridge, prunes and pomposity

It looks like the boundary issue at the bottom of the garden has been solved. It’s cost me more than it should have done, and I feel I have been “beaten” in the negotiation, but on the other hand I have emerged with my dignity and I can now use my time for doing things I enjoy.

Well, to be honest, I do enjoy winding pompous people up, but after six months it grows stale. They probably think the same thing. I am now going to attempt to re-establish the wildlife habitat at the bottom of the garden. We had blackcaps breeding and a thriving colony of frogs. Now we have a clear view into the upstairs windows of the house on the slope below. That’s why we grew the big hedge in the first place – it’s very off-putting to look across and see a neighbour in a state of undress in their bedroom. I’d much rather see blackcaps.

I am going to grow blackthorn and hawthorn and am not sure what else. They will provide bird cover, thorny security and sloes, plus privacy and a windbreak (I am aiming for about six foot tall eventually, (though we may have moved by then). I may try to get one hawthorn to tree size to replace the one that the dickhead neighbour removed – we always had nesting birds in there.

We just had prunes for breakfast. With porridge. That will cause a few perturbations north of the border, where salt and misery are the only acceptable porridge seasonings. I did the Tinker. tailor rhyme and ran out of professions. Obviously my three surplus stones represented chicken farmer, antiques dealer and gardener in my declining career trajectory. Two more stones and I could have brought it up to date with shop assistant and poet.

It’s interesting to see there are other versions, though I do agree with A A Milne that there should be more professions represented.

That’s enough for now – off for a jolly day decluttering now…

 

Study Number 1 - The Idiot

The Tuesday Tirade

At the moment I’m working four days a week. I have Sunday off, Wednesday off and, at the moment, Tuesday off. I’m three hours short of my normal time, but I get a whole extra day off, which is quite useful. I could really compress my hours into three days and take a second job, but although that would suit me, it wouldn’t be quite as convenient for running the shop.

It’s now time to confess that I didn’t follow up the chance of teaching adults to read, as I said I would a few weeks ago. I meant to, because it’s important, but the application form rubbed me up the wrong way. There were a number of things which jarred, but I can work round that, people who write forms often become a little bossy. However I then reached the bit where it required details of my relevant qualifications and went on to ask for two references, preferably from “people of some standing in the community”.

Well, I don’t have any “relevant qualifications”, which is generally a coded reference to the fact that they are looking for ex-teachers. I’ve had this sort of thing before. I also, to be honest, no longer have any people in my social circle who could possibly be described as having any sort of “standing” in the community.

They are supposedly an organisation which aims, amongst other things, to make people feel good about themselves by redressing their lack of education, and they end up reminding me that I made some bad decisions in the past, lack educational qualifications and, in addition, have no friends of any standing in the community. Even writing about it now I feel depressed and embarrassed about this.

Anyway, I’m giving my time to help people and I will complete a criminal record check before starting work, so why do they need references?

As I say, some people just can’t help being pompous when writing forms. Overlying that is the idea that I’ve seen this all before – people running volunteer schemes or charities because they want to be in charge of something and look important, and they want to make sure all their helpers are the right sort of person. Unfortunately, I’m not.

I’ll tell you what I am though, I’m someone who has done a lot of volunteering, and someone who won a regional award for my work in running volunteer and training schemes.

At the moment I’m waiting to find out what we will be doing in the shop in the long term. When we settle that I’m going to volunteer for a scheme that goes into schools to help kids learn to love reading. In the meantime I’ve set up a payment to donate to them every month.

Sorry if this makes me sound like a bad person but I have experienced several organisations where I wasn’t happy. My time is valuable to me and I’m not going to waste it on the wrong scheme.

And there we go, a rant about people trying to do good in the community. I really am a nasty piece of work.

Another Day, Another Post

Well, the general feeling seems to be that most people write because they enjoy it or they love words (or probably both). Tootlepedal writes to remind himself he’s still alive and write because I’m addicted to it. I also enjoy it, love words and, deep down, believe that someone is going to recognise my talent and give me money.

To be honest, it is looking like the only way i”m likely to make money from writing is by diversifying into kidnapping people and writing ransom notes. I could try kidnapping Boris and threaten to release him unless people send me money. However, I’d better be careful. If someone actually tries it I could find that my blog becomes a matter for discussion in court and what started as “humour” is probably going to be seen in a different light when it is labelled “evidence”. It will also involve buying a suit and tie, which is an expense I can do without.

I dropped Julia off at work this morning and drove back to join the main road via a side-street. That gave me an idea for a haibun and I had two more shortly after. I can’t use the voice recorder I bought recently because it is too small for my big, stiff fingers. I should have spent more money and bought one I could actually use. That is false economy of the first order. That meant I had to keep repeating the ideas to myself as I drove along. If I allow myself to relax I tend to forget. And if I forget I convince myself I have just forgotten my best ever poem. This is unlikely to be true, but it’s annoying to forget anything, even the bad ones.

At work I purloined (which sounds better than “stole”) some office stationery and wrote the rough outlines of the three haibun before making some notes which might turn into something. But they might not/ If I don’t tell you, nobody can ask how the new project is going. Or even if there is a new project…

Tonight we had corned beef hash for tea. It featured the remains of yesterdays vegetable stew, a tin of corned beef, onions, leeks and a pack of ready chopped vegetables. I will have it for lunch tomorrow too, as I made far too much. Fortunately I like corned beef hash. I would probably enjoy it nearly as much without the corned beef, which is something I will have to think about as we eat more veg and less meat.

 

 

One Day, Three Posts

Links in case you missed the first and second posts.

I’m watching Family Fortunes. It’s comforting to know that although many species are threatened by extinction we still have a thriving population of idiots. If we could work out a way to generate electricity from them we would be in a really good position to stop depleting the world’s resources. Obviously I mean a socially acceptable way of generating electricity. Merely forking them into a massive incinerator would be easy and direct, but would probably encounter opposition. I’m also unclear on the release of carbon dioxide from burning idiots. It’s probably better to put up massive multi-storey buildings full of bicycles linked to generators and make the idiots pedal. It will take idiots off the streets and give them something useful to do.  When you think of the potential of idiots to breed more idiots it is definitely a renewable energy resource.

First one up for my new idiot treatment will be Boris Johnson. He’s reportedly going to resign as Prime Minister next year as he can’t manage on his £150,000 pa salary. That’s what he thinks. My plans for him are slightly different. He’s lied to us about Brexit, he’s lied and backstabbed his way to the top, he’s cultivated  Dominic Cummings like some vile germ, he’s completely lost it when called on for Covid leadership and now, after having a go at being PM, he’s bored and he wants to go so he can jump on the lecture circuit.

A lifetime spent cycling so I can have cheap electricity seems a fitting end to the blonde buffoon after the mess he’s made of the country in his pursuit of personal gain, particularly if he had to exist on minimum wage.  We could cuff him to the bike like a galley slave and make him pedal off his debt to society.

If I tell you that I’d use my cheap electricity to charge a cattle prod, can you guess where I’d shove it?

 

Writing and Inspiration (Part 2)

I write because I’m addicted. Deep down, I just can’t stop. In my teens I wanted to write as a career, to earn money and to attend literary lunches. I’m still not clear what a literary lunch is, but I knew that writers went to them.

That was as far as I got this morning, before being diverted from my course with some thoughts on junior match reports.

After trying novels I moved on to poetry, then back to novels. I did think about an autobiography but I didn’t really have enough material at the age of seventeen. After that I carried on writing endless first pages and throwing them away whilst reading books on how to write best sellers. Occasionally I had a go at magazine articles, and had a few accepted. I did wonder if I could become a freelance writer, but lack of a decent work ethic suggested it would be a disaster.

Eventually I had a proper go and tried for more fame and fortune with a detective novel. I say novel, what I really mean is “load of words”. It went to about 120,000 words but lacked a couple of things, including a decent plot, an ending and a lot of editing. So I tried again. Another 80,000 words, but still a lack of plot, ending and editing. At least I’d learned to keep the word count down.

After that I moved on to poetry for light relief. My father-in-law had started writing poetry in retirement and had several pieces published. He also performed some of his poems on stage, which is something I will never be brave enough to do. I decided to follow his example and had about fifteen published, was Highly Commended in a national competition, and even managed to get one poem in a decent quality magazine.

At that point I ended up in hospital a couple of times and, when I emerged,  started writing match reports (as previously mentioned) and programme notes. This was not the time in hospital I blogged about a few years ago, but the forerunner. It did, however, involve much the same procedure – spinal anaesthetic, small orifice, large camera and much whining. It also included two biopsies. The dissolving stitches on one of them dissolved far too soon and it took two hours to stop the bleeding. Ah, good times…

There were a couple of years where I did nothing, then I started the blog, went into hospital again and decided to have a crack at haibun. So far it seems to have worked out.

It’s not much for fifty years in writing. A handful of poems of various types published, a dozen magazine articles and a blog. I’m clearly not in it for the money, or even for the fame. To be honest, when the rejections start piling up I don’t even do it because I enjoy it.

One day I may write enough to think about a slim volume of poetry but I’m not, when I think about it, too worried. Once they are published I’m not too concerned. I like the idea of testing myself against the standards of editors, and showing off by blogging about it, but I’m not sure if a few poems justify cutting down acres of trees.

No, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I do it because I’m addicted. Or, if that isn’t possible, I am at least in the grip of a very strong habit.

How about you?