Category Archives: writing

A Tale, Told by an Idiot

Do you remember a few days ago when I said ” from today I am going to set targets and become a writing machine”. Well I did. I set up my poem factory and set to work. I also found a few places to make more submissions and decided to target haiku. As a result, I had an acceptance today.

It’s part of the power of positive thinking. I was going to get rid of some books last week. They are mainly old sales and marketing books passed on by my Dad, but with some motivational books too.. Many of them are actually still relevant as good sales technique and positive thinking never goes out of fashion. There’s no mystique about it despite all the stuff that’s written. To make sales you ask the decision-maker for the order. To achieve success through positive thinking you do something, and you do it now.

That’s what I did – I wrote poems, I showed them to an editor and one was selected.

No jargon, no mystique, no spirituality, despite the reams of rubbish written on the subject. Just plain common sense.

The poem factory is a similar no nonsense set-up. It is anathema to all the proper, spiritual poets out there. They believe (and this is particularly true with haiku) that you should experience “a moment” and compose the poem there and then. Good on them. I’ve done it sometimes, but it’s not common.

Poems which are stitched together from memory or manufactured from two moments or, heaven forbid, simply made up, are known. scornfully. as desk-ku. It’s becoming slightly more common to admit to them now, but there’s still some snobbery on the subject. Even the old masters did them, but the myth of the haiku moment persists.

Anyway, I write a list of ideas or prompts, or open up  file of old photos, or even open a book of poetry and mine it for ideas. As T S Eliot said  “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” I am, I feel, perfectly capable of taking an idea from a poem without copying the idea or the wording of the poem.

This is one I took from life, rather than nature.

I have dustier piles – trust me on this

a pile of books
the dust settles on my
good intentions

(First Published in Failed Haiku – forgot the date.)

This one is from nature, and done in the moment, but it doesn’t really convey the misty morning and the salty wind as we walked and watched seals.

Sea Buckthorn. I promise you there were goldfinches too, but I couldn’t get a good shot.

calling from the sea buckthorn
bright berries

(First Published in Presence 71)

This one was completely made up, but all the bits were true. Robins sing, blackthorn blooms early in the year and at the time, during Covid, we were forced to queue outside shops. I wrote it after queuing for a shop. I needed some props so I added the bird, the song and the blackthorn. Does it make me a bad man?

a robin
sings from the blackthorn
we queue for the shop

(First published Wales Haiku Journal Spring 2021) 

Robin - singing

Robin – singing. OK, it’s in holly, but give me a break.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

(Macbeth, William Shakespeare).

I may start stealing from Shakespeare next. Let’s face it, he stole all the time.

More Work, Less Play

Finally I seem to be getting back in the groove and, for once, actually have things written in advance. Although I had enough for three submissions last night, it still took me the best part of two hours to send them off. Each magazine wants a different format, and even though they want the same information, they want it in different forms and in one case, are very keen that you do it in a very specific order. By the time I’d finished sorting all that out, I then noticed some ways to “improve” the poems one last time. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Anyway, it’s done. I’m planning on making six submissions this month. I’d better get a move on, because one of them closes on 25th and i haven’t started writing it yet. Out of the six, three are to places where I submit regularly. Two are to places I submit to irregularly (I’ve been giving them a miss recently, during my dry spell) and one is to a magazine that has never accepted anything from me, and where I haven’t submitted for about three years.

This is getting back to the old days when it was all about the submissions, and I had plenty of material to send. Recently, with less to send I’ve been playing safe and only submitting to the easy ones. This change of attitude is, I think, the last thing I needed to do to get back to the old way of doing things. All I need now is plenty of ideas. That’s another area where I’ve been struggling but it seems that as my writing is picking up pace, so is the generation of ideas. I have read articles that claim you get more ideas if you write more and so far it seems to be the case.

Of course, I’m a narcissist and I write to see my name in print, so the real test will be to see if I increase my acceptances, not just my workload.

Photo by Pixabay on

Scattered Thoughts

During the course of the day I think of so much stuff that I could, if I made notes, probably write 5,000 words on my day and my thoughts. Obviously I won’t, as I’m disorganised and lazy.

As a result of yesterday’s planning I am gathering material for submissions. My normal practice over the last few months has been to get to the end of the month then decide only to submit a selection. Now I’m planning and have numbers to think about, I am looking at sending stuff to all the possible outlets and have even started writing haiku again. I’m a poor writer of haiku but I ned to improve as they are an important part of writing Haibun. I had stopped writing so many Haibun and transferred to writing tank prose because the tanka is much easier to write. Now, again as a reaction to the numbers, I find myself needing to improve my haiku to improve my Haibun.

I may have talked about my looming retirement a bit too much lately. I may also have touched on the idea that one of my new projects is making sure I live long enough to reach retirement. I note today that two well known personalities, George Alagiah (well known British news reader) and Trevor Francis (famous footballer) have both died. Alagiah was 67 and Francis was 69. They both seem to have been decent blokes over the years and it’s a shame to lose them.  It’s also a bit too close to my age for me to feel comfortable. I am about the age my Mum was when we had to stop her reading out the ages of people in the newspaper obituaries.

There is an article on the internet about writing. The title is “Surprising hobby could help older people stave off dementia – new study findings”. It suggests that writing letters, keeping a diary or using a computer could help reduce your chance of Alzheimer’s by 11%. Another story says “literary activities”. This is good news for anyone on WordPress.

However, why is it surprising?

Apart from the Alzheimer’s benefits I’m sure that regular writing keeps my mood up. I also know that blogging, and the people I “talked” to during lockdown, helped keep me stable in an uncertain time.

It’s no surprise to me tat writing is good for you. What do you think?

Orange Parker Pen

Day 94

Failed Haiku is out. Actually it’s been out a few days but I only just got round to looking at it. I have three senryu on page 84. I just looked and realised you can just type 84 in the box at the beginning. There really is a lot I never knew about computers.

The figures for this year are Submissions 14, Acceptances 6, Pending 5, Refused 2, Lost in Cyberspace 1.I’m reasonably happy with that, though it has to be said that I have let three or four chances to submit slide by, and they are invariably the places I find harder to get into. This tends to make the figures favour me.

I really have to get back to the target of 100 submissions and get well out of my comfort zone. It makes me try harder and and puts rejection into context. However, I’ve covered this before.

The rest of the day followed well worn channels. We generally don’t get many calls or customers on a Monday, as we always used to be closed. That was a tradition from the days when the owner did coin fairs on Sundays. I generally worked on Mondays when i was doing fairs because I had regular markets to do or a shop to open (we were opposite an auctioneer that held Monday sales, so we had plenty of trade customers on a Monday).

My slow days were Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I used to go to auctions or other shops in mid-week. Unfortunately so did a lot of other shops so I ended up visiting a lot of closed shops. It was, I suppose, one of the many flaws in my business plan.

Silver Britannia coin

Day 81

Today I sorted a collection of tickets. Some of them are bus tickets and some relate to things like toll bridges and ferries, but many of them are considerably less interesting than that. Fortunately I have the day off tomorrow and will do some exercises to raise my enthusiasm levels.

Some of them have adverts on the back, and at least one of the adverts refers to rationing, so I’m guessing they go back to the 1940s in some cases.

After looking at all the pictures from previous years, I am starting to feel restless and would like to get out more. All I need to do is find a place that is crammed with interest, devoid of people, and accessible to a man with bad knees and a stick. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

I’m hoping to get an early start tomorrow and get a parking space close to phlebotomy for my overdue blood tests. After that I have a couple of errands to do and plan on spending the rest of the day getting to grips with some writing.

It’s all about practice. The more you write, the better you get. When I decided to start writing poetry again, about the time I started writing this blog, it must have taken a good two years before I started writing to an acceptable level.

This time, six months after being ill, I am struggling again. The quality is OK now, but the quantity isn’t there yet and I’m looking at four deadlines at the end of the week and only enough material for one submission.

That’s why I need a major effort tomorrow – lots of editing to do.

Day 77

Tonight, I noticed that 2022 in Roman numerals, as used in film credits, is MMXXII. In 200 years it will be MMCCXXII. OK, it’s not as easy to read as 2022 and 2222, but it’s more decorative and more fun.

I moved on to discuss date writing conventions of the world. I searched for “dating conventions” but soon realised that it wasn’t the information that I wanted, It seems that the Americans do it differently to the rest of the world because they preserved the original format used by the British before 1776.

This has been bugging me recently because a journal I submit to has started instructing me to use the American system in my submissions. This is one of a number of instructions editors of various journals have been issuing recently. Strangely, they also say they favour the Chicago Manual of Style for certain things – though the date isn’t one. The Chicago Manual of Style does not recommend the American date format as it is felt to be ambiguous.

This is irritating, because I don’t like micromanagement, but that’s how it is. If I want to be published I submit in the style requested. However, things have now moved on. They are going to have a themed issue. I don’t like themed issues. I write for enjoyment, not because I want to engage in a glorified writing exercise. It’s nice to have editorial input, but I don’t crave publication like a  drug.I’m going to sit this one out.

Even if I did decide to submit, it’s unlikely that anything I write on the subject of war and human stupidity will be as good as this, so I’ll stick to writing about birds and Julia and traffic jams.

Day 67

I heard back from one of my other submissions. Another acceptance. Too easy. Something bad must happen soon. I will become complacent, or editors will realise that deep down I am not worth publishing . . .

Success can be  a troublesome thing to deal with. My previous four attempts were turned down on the basis of obscurity, being late and not being good enough (twice). In some ways I find that easier to deal with, which is really the wrong way round. You often see articles about how to cope with rejection, but nothing about how to cope with success. Maybe I should write that as an article – it would be more original than another one about coping with rejection.

That’s a question – is it possible to be “more original” or is it like pregnancy and uniqueness? You can’t be “more pregnant” or “slightly pregnant”. You can, according to some people be “nearly unique” , “almost unique” and various other types of unique, but they all really mean “not unique” and are a misuse of the word. I saw one example on eBay that was properly used but hilarious in context.

Someone ha listed an item as “rare”. This, in eBay speak just means “I have not seen one before”. Five sales down the page was another of these rare items, which tends to suggest they may not be rare. The second one, which made me laugh, was described as “unique”. Clearly it wasn’t.

And that’s what made me think about my statement above – can you be “more original”?, Or is it simply “original” or “not original”? Have I fallen into sloppy writing habits?

What do you think?

Stone on the Floor




Day 43

I’ve just finished the first phase of planning my submissions for next year. So far I have 53 submissions in the planner, and I haven’t quite finished. I will have about 75 by the time I have finished. No doubt I’ll miss a few, but you need some sort of target, and it should always be slightly more than you think you can achieve.

Set a target too low and it’s not worth having. Set it too high and you risk demotivating yourself. Last year I made 48 submissions, though I was ill for a couple of months and would have managed around 55 if i’d been fit. Seventy five for this year seems fair as a target. I still need to add a couple of magazines that always reject me (I need a challenge) and some ordinary poetry magazines too. Life isn’t all about Japanese forms of poetry.

It feels good to have the plan done, even if it is incomplete. At last I have something to compare myself to, and it’s always easier to work when you have  a framework in place. Without one, it’s easy to drift.

When I look at the actual figures, I see that I met or slightly exceeded the targets for numbers of acceptances last year, being on target for haibun and a few over for haiku. I also wrote a few tanka, which weren’t included in the targets, as I hadn’t even thought of writing tanka when I set the targets. Then there were the six “normal” poems. There is no target for them as I just fit them in when I have time and they aren’t a particularly high priority.




Day 39

I’m writing again now, and some of it has promise. I’ve even started reading a bit more. Unfortunately, like my weight loss, I still need to do a lot more.

Of course, the time can’t just be devoted to writing. Even the “writing time” has to take in research and administration. I need to get my submissions log up to date, as I didn’t record everything that went out in the rush at the end of January. I also need to get my printouts of published poems up to date – they are probably lagging by six months but I like to keep a hard copy so that I can browse it when I’m feeling down. The printer has broken, yet again, and I really need to get another one. However, it doesn’t seem as simple as it used to be, and I keep putting it off for fear of buying the wrong sort.

A lot of them seem to be wireless or bluetooth these days and I’ve never had much luck with either system.

Although I’m currently writing various things I will have to find out which magazines are open for submissions before I go much further. It’s a lot easier to meet a deadline when you know the exact date.

The header photo is a temperance medal from the Independent Order of Good Templars, who broke away from the Order of Good Templars in 1852 (which reminds me of so many committees I have seen). They eventually merged again, expanded internationally and are now known as the International Organisation of Good Templars. The medal dates from the latter part of the 19th century and is in excellent condition for its age. I listed it just before lunch yesterday and someone bought it twenty minutes later. With that and the cigarette case I seem to be on a roll. The medal is big, about 45mm in diameter, despite the size it appears to be on my screen. I haven’t quite got the hang of sizing photos yet.

Independent Order of Good Templars medal (obverse)

Independent Order of Good Templars medal (Reverse)

Day 35

I had an email today, and I’m happy. For the next month I am going to be on the front page of contemporary haibun online. It feels a bit like being famous, as I’ve actually heard of the other two who are on there. However, to drift back from dreams of fame and success for a moment, if you are reading this in March, you will ned to use this link as I fade back into obscurity and gradually become part of the clutter at the back of the internet.

I’ve just realised that I’m back in drifting sands haibunI had been rejected for the last two issues but manged to pull something out of the bag for this one. It was mainly written before I became ill in the autumn and I managed to get it polished just in time. Same with the cho submission. Now I just need to get back in my stride for the spring.

I’ve developed some bad habits while I’ve been taking a rest from writing – spending too much time on eBay for instance, and thinking about the problems of the world. I need to get back to poetry and away from real life.

Last night Julia kept twitching in bed, and every time she did so, the covers acted like bellows, drawing cold air across my shoulders and waking me up. It wasn’t all bad, because as I lay awake I invented a new way of keeping warm at night.

Unfortunately, in the cold light of dawn, I realised that the Reheating Hot Water Bottle  wasn’t going to be a goer. It would have been OK in the 1920s when it would have been fine to link a container of water to the mains electricity, using that braided brown flex favoured by our grandparents. But Julia doesn’t think they would allow it now. She also points out that electric blankets are easier and safer and if I feel cold in bed maybe I should buy one and stop waking her at 6am to discuss my ideas for new inventions. I’m afraid she isn’t always open to new ideas, like the one I had about her adding “the famous poet” after every mention of my name. I mentioned that after showing her the cho page. She’s not keen . . .

The top picture is one of Simon Wilson, the famous poet.It’s the unedited version of the one in cho and you can clearly see that my “office” includes a microwave, a kettle and a coin cabinet.