Category Archives: writing

My Favourite Day

It i now just after midday and it is probably time to take stock.

I delivered Julia to work this morning. Traffic was heavier than usual, which was probably due to the return to school, though it could just be that Monday is usually busier in general. I have no way of measuring, but the queue in a couple of places was a little longer than usual.  It might just appear heavier because I was expecting it to be. I really ought to devise an accurate system of measurement.

On the way back I went to Lidl as we need bread and I like their bakery. I’ve been avoiding it lately, but you have to go out at some time.

As usual, I observed some selfish parking. A single man in a Range Rover parked in a parent and child space (we didn’t have them in my day, we just had to learn how to control children and shopping at the same time!) I don’t see why anyone needs a Range Rover if they live in town. I don’t see why Range Rover owners can’t walk a few yards extra. And I definitely don’t know why he felt it necessary to park at an angle so that a corner of his vehicle jutted into the corner of the parking spot next to him. Somehow, I always asu8me that if you have the money to buy a big car and fuel it that you should know how to drive. I am clearly wrong.

Again, in the absence of a proper measuring system I can’t say this was the worst parking I’ve ever seen. How does it compare, for instance, with a small car parking across two disabled spaces whilst playing loud music? So many variables.

I bought the usual selection – sandwich baguettes, chocolate brownies, ham offcuts for sandwiches and mini cucumbers, which Julia likes with her sandwiches. She actually ordered some plants yesterday to grow her own this summer.

I then sat down to write. I finalised a selection of haiku, which needed to be sent before the 15th. That is now done. I’ve submitted to that magazine before and expect I will be making a contribution to my target of 100 rejections quite soon.

After that I settled down to some “ordinary” poetry. At the moment I’m writing by setting ideas down and adding to them. When they are about the right length I check I have everything I need – theme, detail, ambiguity- then I start pruning and refining. I have two or three on the go, in various stages of completion and it’s feeling good. I’m pinning a lot of hope on my ordinary poetry to bring in the 100 rejections.

I then twiddled around with ome tidying of folders, made a cup of tea, browsed the internet and skimmed a book that arrived last week. I answered a phone call from a very nice lady who wanted to help me extend the warranty of my washing machine. Regular readers, who know we use the launderette for washing, will realise she was unlikely to succeed, and thi proved to be the case.

That’s it for now. I’m going to make lunch, using a liquidised vegetable stew and I will then start rounding up some haiku for another submission. If I get that done, I will have a go at refining some haibun and writing a couple of new prose sections.

After I pick Julia up I will have come full circle and that brings us back to the chocolate brownies. I will miss my Mondays when I have to go back to full-time work.

Orange Parker Pen

 

Tests and Targets

Sunday morning – 10.31 am – and Julia’s phone just bleeped. Twenty four hours after posting th samples she is, once again, negative.  This good news, as I have had a bit of a dry cough at times this week and was worried about it being the dreaded covid cough. However, if she is negative I probably am, so all is good.

She just mentioned, as I chatted to her whilst typing, that my appetite has seemed unaffected by anything this week, which is another sign I am probably not infected. I’m not sure I liked her tone…

After reading the article I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been seriously thinking about how much writing I would have to do to manage 100 submissions a year. In the last six months I have managed 26 submissions. It looks like I could mange 52 submissions a year which is a handy one a week. By doubling my output I will hit the 100. Simple.

Unfortunately for the target of 100 rejections I have had 11 acceptances. Even if the quality of my work deteriorates badly with the increased output I’m likely to have to write even more to hit target.

At that point I have to consider the question of markets. There are some haiku/haibun magazines I haven’t tried yet, for a variety of reasons. There are also some that will accept more submissions than I currently send. The more I think of it, the more I am starting to feel lazy because I don’t submit 100 pieces a year.

It just goes to show you should be careful what you browse on the internet, and, what you think about after reading it. Two days ago I was content, now I’m not so sure. This blog started as a way of getting me back into writing, and it seems to have done that.  I have moved on to other targets, and it seems to be going OK. I even have  a plan for the coming year.

Orange Parker Pen

The original plan was to get 24 haiku/senryu accepted, 18 haibun and three articles. The haibun figure is about what I am doing at the moment, as long as I write consistently instead of taking a few months off here and there. The haiku/senryu target is based on writing and submitting more – I’ve been a bit lazy there, but I need to sharpen up my skills to write better poems for the haibun. The articles? Well, I decided that I also need to sharpen up my skills in knowing more about  the forms I write and the way I do it. A target for articles seemed like a good way to make me focus.

Now. only a couple of months after setting those targets, I’m starting to question them. As the result of wandering into a random internet page, I’m thinking of more ambitious goals.

The word Icarus, is coming to mind. There are several poems about Icarus This is one of the less well known ones, but probably my favourite. However, where is the fun in not flying close to the sun?

And that’s about it. I can’t spend all day chatting on the blog when I have two submissions a week to make. I only have four planned for this month so I have to find four more and then I have to write them.

The pictures, as usual these days, have little bearing on the text.

Allium Flower

100 Rejections?

They are getting through the vaccinations round here – people in their mid-50s are now being called in. In Nottinghamshire we are being given our second dates at the time of booking the first one. My sister, in Cambridgeshire, and a friend in Oxfordshire, are still waiting for their second dates weeks after the initial vaccinations.

Julia’s weekly test went in the post this morning as part of our “new normal” and we are hoping for the traditional clar result tomorrow morning. The current streamlined testing system is very impressive.

Lat night I read an article on writing that put forward a new way of looking at things. I may have mentioned that I try to take the view that more submissions will mean more acceptances. I may even have mentioned that when I was a salesman looking for one sale in ten visits, I used to look on the nine blanks as nine steps towards the next sale.

The article says that you should aim for 100 rejections a year. That way you can be more relaxed and the acceptances will follow.  This is in line with my thinking, though actively seeking 100 rejections is one step beyond my current plans. As an example they describe an experiment performed with a ceramics course. Half the course were told that they would be graded on a single piece of work, which should be perfect.  The other half were told they would be judged on the total weight of pottery produced. (I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it makes a good story so stick with it).

At the end of the year the group that produced the best quality pots was the group that had been told to produce quantity – they made more pots, they improved with practice and they stayed relaxed. By the end of the year they were producing better pots than he members of the group who had ben told to make one perfect pot. Members of that group were so hung up on producing one perfect piece they simply couldn’t produce to the best of their ability.

It’s certainly something to think about, though I’m not sure if I could write enough to gather 100 rejections.

Musings on a Lack of Industry

What sort of day was it today? I hear you ask.

Well, it’s our day off, so it started with a lie in and then we baked a couple of bake at home baguettes (we have accumulated several packs over the last few weeks) and filled it with the poor quality bacon we got from TESCO last week. For lunch we had excellent avocados on sourdough toast (because TESCO does ro some things right) and this evening we had stir fried veg with rice, because we seem to have a lot of vegetables.

Tonight I have put in a grocery order online but have concentrated on things like washing powder and stuff as we don’t need a lot of food. In a couple of weeks I will probably rearrange the shopping so we can miss a week – we just seem to have accumulated too much food as a result of having to make a minimum order every week.

There are a lot of pitfalls to grocery shopping online, even without the inefficiency of the supermarket, one being the accidental stockpiling of baked beans and tinned tomatoes.

The rest of the day was reasonable. We picked up our prescriptions, though mine was two pills short. It isn’t even worth ringing up about, but it will go down in the new diary I am keeping about my prescription ordering, because I’m getting sick of the inefficiency.

I actually got a bit of writing done, read some blog posts and started to organise my submission plan for the month ahead. A couple of magazines have reorganised things – one isn’t taking haibun for a while and another is going to publish every two months instead of every month, so it needs allowing for in the plan.

That’s what they don’t tell you when you start writing – for every hour you write there’s at least on for errands, one for planning, one for reading and one for watching TV. Actually writing time is limited, and that’s before you squander it on video games, looking out of the window and chewing the end of your metaphorical pen.

The Curfew Tolls

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
         The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
Thomas Grey – Elegy in a Country Churchyard
It’s a dull and mournful poem at the best of times, and when it was first crammed into me about the age of 13, I didn’t appreciate its finer points. Even in my maturity I tend to think of the lines Far From The Madding Crowd and Paths of Glory as being useful in a trivia quiz, rather than appreciating its finer points as a poem.
However, if Hardy and Kubrick can steal bits of it, my title problems are over for months. It’s a very long poem…
It’s also, according to an article I read, not an elegy, which just goes to show that poets know nothing about poetry.
So, I hear you shouting, it’s all very well having a pop at Grey’s Elegy, but what masterpieces have you written today?
The honest answer is none. I looked at my notes, I set to with enthusiasm and I’m currently looking at the smoking wreckage of one haibun and the lifeless corpse of another.
I’m not sure whether it was the weight of my expectations or my attempts to write on then screen that caused the problem. After eating  (Julia is just putting the finishing touches to a roast dinner), I am going to revert to pen and paper.
If that fails then I will have to admit that the weight of expectation and the amount of planning has probably stifled the work.
This, unfortunately, leads me to the conclusion that my best work is all don by accident and I am, as mentioned before, a fraud. A lucky fraud, but still a fraud.
If, on the other hand, the work does flow, I will be making work for myself, ad I hate the labour of typing out my notes. Labour? That’s a very privileged definition of labour.
Footnote: I ate the roast dinner then watched the The Great Pottery Throwdown. Then I had apple crumble. Later, I will write…
The picture of the country churchyard is Southwell MInster.

Too Many Thoughts

It’s a bit nippy today, but seems bright enough as I look past my computer screen to the world outside.

I made a start on a couple of projects last night – cataloguing my collection and sorting things out to make a start at selling on eBay. I’ve been saying I will do this for several years now. I will do more today,in the hope that it will become a habit. Later I will have to order some padded envelopes.

Recently I have fallen behind with my blog reading, which is a shame, as there are lots of great blogs to read. Again, it’s a case of establishing a habit. Unfortunately my head is full of other things, and I really have to get that done. I will b back to reading blogs later today but for now I need to write.

Ten minutes with pen and paper upstairs has given me enough to write about for the rest of the day and I want to get that done before I lose the impetus. I’ve not done much writing recently and need to start  again. When I’ve done today’s notes Istill have a couple of weeks of ideas to work on.

So that’s where I am – to many things to do and not enough time or brain to do it. Today I will do the things that make me happy – writing and reading and tomorrow I will do things that need doing but aren’t as pleasurable – listing, sorting and cookery.

And with that plan in mind, I had better get on with it.

Heron at Arnott Hill park – he looks as happy as I feel

Just a quick note about parker pens – the orange one I use in my stock picture is almost deceased. It seemed flimsier than previous pens, and when I gathered them for a comparison, it definitely was flimsier.

The first problem was an internal leak which left staining that you could see from the outside – this looks shabby. Then a crack developed in the cap. The nib is excellent, but the rest of it is not up to scratch. As Parker have ignored all my hints that I would like free pens in return for mentions on the blog, I feel I can mention their shoddy build quality. My Parker experience has been disappointing. I have several older pens that have lasted 30 years so this one is a particular disappointment.

I only buy cheap pens, I admit, because I am forever putting them down and losing then, but Parker prices seem to have gone up and build quality has gone down. This, as history shows, is a perfect recipe for losing market share, or even bankruptcy. You don’t need as degree in business to spot that, but it’s an error people still make. All those young geniuses in their shiny offices with big salaries and gleaming German cars, and they can’t spot that.

Parker, I don’t want free samples of your inferior pens, but if you have any well-paid jobs in marketing or  quality control I’d be happy to sell my principles and work for you.

It’s leaf. It may or may not have a deeper meaning. But mainly it’s a leaf.

Meanwhile, Julia has had her results from yesterday’s covid test – negative again.

A Thirty Minute Post

I don’t know what’s happening to me but I just can’t settle to write. Even when I do write I run out of steam or fall out of love with the post as I get part way through. I really don’t know what’s happened to me – it’s like I’ve become, tired, dull and lazy, all at the same time. It can’t be writers’ block, before anyone suggests that, because it doesn’t exist.  Sensitive types and amateurs get blocked, but I’m not sensitive and I am trying to develop a professional approach.

I am just going to set my alarm and get my head down over the keyboard. Let’s see what happens. Well, a rambling introduction happens, which is always good – that’s used up about half the 250 word target.

I finished my Open Learn course “Creative Writing and Critical Reading”, which didn’t really teach me much. I’m afraid some of them do skim over the subject. It’s always interesting to see something put together as a course, because reading books or the internet can be a bit scrappy. And, of course, if I were doing this to impress an employer, it’s always handy to have it all set out on a screen. I have now completed six courses and am just starting at seventh.

My current course is “Personal Branding for Career Success”. This brings round in a neat circle, as I selected it because I am feeling the need to appear professional  to editors, and to make sure they view me as hard working, rather than the sort of person who retires to a darkened room and claims to be blocked.. A personal brand, according to Jeff Bezos, is what people say about you when you are out of the room. In the days when we spoke English and used fewer words, it used to be called “reputation”. I’ve only done about 10% of the course so far, I’ll let you know how it goes as I proceed.

There you go – 299 words and 18 minutes. Just goes to show the benefits of getting your head down and showing a professional attitude.

I will, I expect, spend the remaining 12 minutes messing about with links, tags and photos.

364 words, 29 minutes’ including links, tags and photos. Looks like I’m back…

Thoughts on Poetry and Bacon

That’s Bacon the foodstuff, not the artist or the pioneer of frozen food.

I suppose, after all the events of the day, I should have spent the evening juggling with casseroles and torturing myself with self-doubt. However, I didn’t.

What’s hit is history, what’s missed is mystery, as the old ornithologists used to say. That’s a saying from the days when they used to shoot birds as a prelude to identifying them. Th same goes for submissions – what’s accepted is gone and what is rejected needs work. Or, possibly, a bin.

In some ways I’m more like a mechanic than a poet. The one that was returned yesterday, with comments,  is going to retain the original engine and chassis, but will be getting new bodywork and a respray. It will start out as an observational haibun and, probably, end up as a piece of fiction. It will still be a true piece about man and nature, but it will have fictional elements added for effect.

A second is in for a total rewrite. I’m going to keep the haiku and the original idea. All else will be new. The third of that batch will be completely dismantled. I will re-use several of the images to write haiku and park the rest in the file marked “Multiple Rejections”. It has, to be fair, been rejected three times, so the editors obviously agree. One day I might find a use for the carcase.

Nothing is ever wasted, it just isn’t used as originally intended.

Moving on to casseroles – the panhaggerty was a funny colour and the bacon had no flavour. I will be having it again as it’s easy to make, and because there’s enough left over for lunch. It was not as good as the normal vegetable stew we do, but it was quicker to prepare. Part of the problem may come from the fact that I over-browned the bacon. I think it also needs bacon bits rather than rashers. Not sure if you can still get bacon bits, I suspect they all go off to be cubed and sold as a premium product..

There’s another recipe I want to make, which I haven’t made for years. Instead of boiling for twenty minutes you cook it in the oven for 2 hours. That fact has always made me wonder if it’s worth it.

I will check online. Then I am off to write a book review…

Hitting the Ground Running

Nine o’clock and the next six hours belong to me. Julia is safely delivered to work, the computer is on and I have a cup of tea steaming by my side. I had a few comments to read and am now going to check my emails.

Imagine one of those calendar pictures that shows time passing in black and white films…

Big news from the emails is that gamekeepers are no longer allowed to kill crows to protect pheasants and red-legged partridges which are being reared for shooting. It probably won’t make a lot of practical difference, but it’s part of the battle to stop the irresponsible keepers who kill birds of prey.

Drifting Sands Haibun has a new guest editor and submissions are open for this month.

Last night I sent two sets of submissions off. Today I want to send a couple more, which is going to involve selection and editing. I will now finish this post and get on with that. IT always seems that life is better when I have plenty of submissions in. It is a bit like lottery tickets – life is better when you are in the game and, until the draw, you can believe you are a rich man. While I wait for an editor to respond, I am a poet. After the rejection I am a failure. Of course, after an acceptance I worry too.  I worry that I will never be published again. I now know that this is Imposter Syndrome, though the ability to name it doesn’t make it go away.

List for the rest of the day –

Wash up breakfast pots (which will allow me to avoid work and feel good about it)

Make soup for lunch (ditto)

Sort out two submissions

Work on partially completed poems

Start two poems I have notes for

Lunch

Write haiku/senryu

Research for article – Bomb Disposal

Research for article – RNLI

Pick Julia up

Cup of tea, TV, nap

Cook stir fry

Write more

Write post (500 words) about how hard I’ve been working today.

Writing Haibun – Warning – May Cause Drowsiness

Saturday 2nd January has proved to be a quiet day. After writing my first post of the day I edited some of my notebooks, browsed some on-line shops and washed up. I moved on to editing my notebooks – typing out three haibun and twelve haiku. They started off as seven haibun and twenty two haiku but some of them were rubbish. I think I must have written one of the haibun while I was asleep as it made no sense at all, and one of the others was so tedious it was probably the one that had sent me to sleep. Several of the haiku were just alternative versions, so one of them had to go.

And, I confess, two of the haiku were unreadable. I think I’ve covered this before. My writing is so bad I( cannot always read it shortly after I write it. Some of these were weeks old and I didn’t have a clue what they had originally been about. I came close to abandoning a haibun too, but there were enough legible/guessable words for me to reconstitute that one.

My Orange Parker Pen

That was all the useful work I did. I made lunch after that, using a pack of four small avocadoes. One, which I had tested, was ripe. The other four turned out to be a bit less than ripe, so needed dicing more than mashing. Julia wanted hers with a poached egg so I boiled the water, swirled it round and gently tipped an egg into it. I think the egg may have been a bit old, and the water may have been swirling a bit too fast as the whole thing seemed to explode in the minute I was away from the pan. I just had a pan of highly dilute scrambled egg. The second, was better, but I cooked it in the bowl of a metal ladle just to be on the safe side.

Fried eggs would have been better but a poached egg seems de rigueur in smashed avo circles so who am I to disagree. I had prawns in mine with a dressing made from ketchup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and black pepper, because I am firmly rooted in the 1970s.

Back to the writing for a moment – for the benefit of new readers, I write using a fountain pen whenever I can, because the words flow better. Even a cheap biro is better than typing. I can rarely type haibun and haiku when I am composing. Magazine articles and essays are fine, but poetry seems to demand a proper writing implement. That’s why I have to accept losing a percentage to illegibility. Better to lose  a few that way than to sit staring at a computer screen writing nothing, or writing things which I then edit into nothingness. It may seem inefficient at first, and I have tried to streamline the process, but it just doesn’t work any other way.

For the rest of the day I watched TV, chatted to Julia and dreamed of pizza. Then I woke up, cooked tea (we had steak as a New Year treat) and started writing this.

Failed Haiku Number 61 is out. Mine are about 40% of the way down under “Simon Wilson”. I’ve got so used to my accidental penname on WP that I feel very dull having an ordinary name. I could make it easy for you by just printing them here, but that doesn’t seem fair to the editor and the other writers. Scroll down until, you see the red feather – I’m a few pages under that. Or you can wait for a month and remind me – I will copy them and paste them in the blog once the new issue is out.

I’m now in what I find to be the toughest bit of the process. Writing is simple. Editing it into something readable isn’t too bad as long as you remember not everything is useful and allow yourself to throw stuff away. Editing for submission – the honing and perfecting, is a bit tricky, as I’m not a great judge of quality. Editing after submitting is quite easy – the editor suggests things and I do them. It’s about publication. I will agonise about my artistic integrity later – there are plenty of words and nothing to prevent me writing another version of the poem I want to write. This one is an example – it’s half the poem I originally submitted and misses out what I thought was an important point. However, it is also good like this and the cut down version is more elegant, so I’m happy to make the cuts.I have, however, rewritten another version of the longer poem, which will be submitted to a magazine this month. Even coping with rejection isn’t the worst bit. It’s an inevitable part of writing for publication, so there’s no point taking it personally.

A Tranquil Pond I once wrote about.

No, the most difficult bit for me is submission. I was sure I’d written about this in the last few days but I can’t find it so I may merely have thought about it, or I may have edited it. Sorry if I’m repeating myself.

Once I have things written and (in theory) edited to near perfection, I have to send them out. There are nearly always more places to send poems than I have poems to send. I have seven places for submissions in january. This means I need 16 haibun and twenty haiku.

In theory I have around 40 haibun ready to go, but in reality some of them aren’t good enough to go. A few of them have been returned by one or more editors, so it’s not just me who thinks that. I have, sensibly, about twenty, but then I have to decide which one suits which magazine. The best ones could go almost anywhere, the les good ones need to be placed where they will be most appreciated. At that point I start to ask myself if I should send anything apart from the very best. It’s like a massive circle. Eventually it all sorts itself out (a looming deadline tends to help concentration) and I start on the next lot.

I’ve now one over a thousand words, which I always think is too many, so I will leave it there.

 

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