Tag Archives: writing

Slowing Down, Taking Stock

Things are stuttering along. It is, as before, a zig-zag course towards improvement and today, after submitting my first piece for some time, I am once again wondering why I bother writing.

I’m clear on magazine articles. I don’t do many of them, but I do it for the money.

Poetry is different. I’ve been sent one or two free copies of magazines and have had two certificates, but the rewards of writing poetry are mainly spiritual.

At the moment, I’m thinking of stopping submitting so much. I can dress this up as spiritual renewal or an issue of quality over quantity, but in truth, I’m just getting a bit fed up with some of the editors I have to deal with.

Most of them are brilliant (though even the brilliant ones often turn me down – nobody is perfect) with a positive attitude, open minds and helpful comments.

Others are a bit on the academic side and a touch prescriptive. I won’t get too specific, as they all work hard to produce the magazines we rely on, and I don’t want to criticise anyone personally. However, one or two seem to get their preferences mixed up with the “rules” of writing Japanese poetry forms. Even the various societies, with their panels of experts, don’t produce rules, just guides. These also often edit what I consider to be my voice. I write as I speak, and if I want to use an expression from the midlands of the UK, I don’t see why it needs to be ironed out by an American with an academic background in English.

Meanwhile, there is the group of editors who want to be excited by my submissions. I write about my life. It’s not exciting. I’m unlikely to display the qualities required by these editors.

I have limited time at the moment, and have decided to use it more wisely. One submission has gone. The other, with its manufactured false excitement and linguistic fireworks, will stay in the draft section. Eventually, as it matures, it will be used, or dismantled for use in other work.

But it won’t be sent out this week to curry favour with an editor who wants me to be something I’m not.

My Orange Parker Pen

 

 

Overdoing it

Yes, you guessed. After weeks of sitting with my leg elevated, I finally, after a week of building up to it, managed to overdo things. After my haircut and shopping I spent the rest of the day gradually deteriorating as my knee stiffened and my leg throbbed. Maybe “Back to Normal” was a bit optimistic. Just one more day on the zig zag of recovery.

It’s at times like this that you appreciate the magic of WP. I’ve been reading about Captain Moonlight, dining out and the Dave Clark Five over the last few days. Life would be a much poorer place without this ability. I don’t use the internet in the living room these days, as |I’m trying to restore the art of conversation (which is basically me talking while Julia grunts and uses her laptop. To be fair, she does take her work seriously, and does do a lot of planning, even though the general culture of the organisation is to take the money and do as little as possible.  I won’t go on, but as I watch her fill out forms, do training and plan sessions for hours every evening, I do a lot of thinking about the unfairness of life.

I’m going to go to the doctor soon, then will go to work for the first time in just over three weeks. I have grown lazy over that time. It hasn’t been like lockdown where I had plenty of time to do things – most of the time was spent sitting down like a vegetable, unable to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time.  Four pages of a book has been a struggle.

In the last week things have improved and I’ve been writing again, though I haven’t actually typed or submitted anything. Good news is that I just had a haibun accepted, so things are still working their way through the system. I am able to write, but so far haven’t typed much. I’m going to have to start the whole, dull, copy typing process again if I’m going to get back to making regular submissions. I need to get a couple of submissions knocked into shape as the end date for two magazines is 15th of this month – five days is cutting it fine even by my standards.

Generally, despite the up and down nature of my recovery the week has been a positive one and I’m better now than I was when I started. Even yesterday was a positive, despite the knee pain – it was me that caused the pain by trying too much. My immune system just keeps chugging along and healing as fast as it can.

Road to Recovery

As part of the process of hardening myself off to get back to work I set myself a 30 minute target on the computer this morning. I have already had breakfast, been to have my dressing changed and had a drive in the country.

After waiting for the computer to start, checking emails, reading a the headlines and checking comments, I now have 17 minutes left to either read blogs or write one. As I haven’t been writing many posts recently I thought it was time to write again.

Medical news is that I am much better, the leg is definitely healing, the swab showed only normal bacteria, my weight is decreasing and everything is returning to normal. Coming downstairs this morning after another good night’s sleep I really felt wonderful. By the time I got halfway down the stairs my legs were feeling a bit heavier, and things weren’t quite so rosy, but it was still good.

There were butterflies on the shrubbery at the surgery – a Speckled Wood and a Meadow brown, which was good as I have struggled to see anything other than whites this year. The front garden is still full of bees and hoverflies, though deficient in butterflies.

I’m currently concentrating on nature haiku and am having to write about what I see from the house windows, so it was good to get out for a drive after seeing the nurse.

Talking of which – I let several deadlines slip by in the last couple of weeks, but if you aren’t feeling 100% is it worth putting out substandard work? I decided not. I did have some bits I could have sent, but the filing system is a little chaotic and there was a risk of sending things out that I’ve already sent elsewhere.

As I have recovered I have been writing more, but haven’t typed a lot, which is also something I need to take in hand. In the next few days I’m hoping to send some submissions out, which will be a sign that I’m back to normal.

Sorry it’s a bit rambling, but as it’s not unusual, the only excuse is poor focus. This is one thing  can’t blame the illness for.

Picture is a Speckled Wood from about this time last year.

My timer just went, by the time I have added tags etc I will have done about 35 minutes on the computer. It’s a start.

 

 

A Small Success and a Digression on Auction Technique

I had a note yesterday to tell that I was on a 24 day streak with WP. The days pass so quickly! It only seems like last week that I broke continuity and it’s already back to 24 days. You know what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t improve my writing and it doesn’t improve the blog.  It’s just a way of WP trying to draw you in – a bit like your dealer congratulating you on taking drugs for 24 days in a row.

Presence arrived today. I have a haiku and a tanka in there. Unfortunately it’s a print journal so I can’t send you a link. I’m liking the tanka form. It’s two lines longer than  a haiku and less restrictive, so it’s more fun. I’ve submitted two lots and had two accepted, so I seem to have the hang of them.  However, I won’t make too many predictions of success as I’ve been here before. Early success is often followed by a run of poor form before it picks up again.

This was quite a common thing when buying and selling antiques. You buy one without knowing much about it, you learn, you sell. Next time, armed with more knowledge and confidence, you end up paying too much, or not spotting a fault, and the second one proves hard to sell. Buying in ignorance is often best. I bought several bargains simply by putting my hand up at an auction when nobody else wanted something. As I’d never risk more than a tenner on this sort of bid, it worked out very well on several occasions, though there could be problems.

I twice bought lots thinking they were one box, and they turned out to be multi-box lots. Once I bought some toy cars and six boxes of unsaleable secondhand Christmas decorations. Another time, I bought a box of old pots to get a book and found they came with four boxes of mediocre amateur paintings. At least I was able t give the paintings to a charity shop. I couldn’t even give the Christmas decorations away.

Anyway, I digress.

It is now time to write some more and see if I can repeat my early success.

IT could be a lef. But then it could be a writing prompt . . .

 

Reading, writing, wittering on…

This is a post I wrote this morning. I arrived at work slightly earlier than usual and found there were only two parcels to pack, so that was soon done. I don’t access WP from the work computer, as I don’t want to blur too many lines, but I do sometimes check my emails, so I emailed this to myself.

After posting last night, I spent some time looking at poetry to see what I could do to improve. First stop was  a magazine that usually rejects my work. The editor does give me advice from time to time, which only increases my confusion. I don’t always understand what they say to me, and I definitely don’t understand why things identified as faults in my work are acceptable in the work of others. I found several examples and spent half an hour studying them for clues as to what makes them publishable when I am not. I looked at all sorts of things apart from the writing and the content, including subject, voice and style, and I couldn’t se what the successful pieces had that I didn’t. I’ll have a go in a few months and see what I can see.

Better informed, but mystified, I moved on. If I keep seeking, I am sure I will find something to explain it, and even if I don’t , I am bound to learn something and improve, simply by looking at things in greater detail.

It’s that pond again. The haibun that it inspired was eventually split in two. One half was published. The second half formed the basis of another haibun I am still working on.

I found two by someone from the UK and decided to look him up. I do that sometimes. He writes in several forms and has published nearly a thousand pieces in 20 years. He belongs to two writers’ groups, reads in public and plans all his poems out. I’m already sensing several differences in our approach. I don’t like the idea of writers’ groups, don’t like speaking in public, and although I do think of planning I rarely do any. I say “rarely” but if you were to pin me down on detail, I may alter that to never. But I do sometimes thing of planning, which is nearly the same. However, despite the differences there is one similarity – we keep writing, learning and submitting.

My normal planning process is to think “I’m going to write something.” I may have to look at that again.

At that point, or some defined point in the future (generally after eating or watching TV) I write. Then I write some more and try to add something at the beginning that is also mentioned at the end. If you do that it looks like you had a plan. Then I take all the bad words out – long words because they are just showing off, adjectives because they are frowned on in poetry, and clichés – shards is one of the main ones that people go on about but myriads, hosts and cerulean are also unwelcome.

Then I leave it to rest. Some of my published work has been resting for a couple of years, with a gentle nudge and a prune now and again. Sometimes I add a bit, but mostly it’s a process of reduction. Then one day I send it out into the world. It often returns. So I cut, shape and send it out again. If it comes back too many times, I think about reusing bits of it.

It’s sometimes difficult to judge. Some poems go out four or five times and are eventually accepted. Others go once or twice and get parked. It all depends on how much confidence I have in them. One went out five times before being accepted, another was accepted on its fourth attempt (four days after being rejected by another magazine).  As Chuck Berry said ” It goes to show you can never can tell.”

An attempt at artistry

 

The Second Shot

I wrote a 350 word post earlier. It was about the GP surgery not having my blood test paperwork sorted despite me organising it three days ago. Then it went on to discuss the pharmacy and the lie they told me about texting me when my prescription was ready this afternoon. I feel you’ve heard the same complaints before so after ridding myself of the burden, I consigned it to WP limbo and decided to move on. I moved as far as the cooker, then as far as my seat in front of the TV. There I stayed for a while. I am now back writing a new post, and hoping that it’s going to be more interesting than the previous list of complaints.

It is ten months since I started taking poetry writing more seriously and in that time I have made 39 submissions. It’s going to be a bit of a slog raising that to a hundred a year, because I already feel that I spend a lot of time writing. I’m in the middle of a good patch at the moment – plenty of successful attempts with an even spread of rejection to keep my feet on the ground.

When I get a cluster of rejections I always start to think I’ll never be accepted again, and when I have  a good run of acceptances I worry that it can’t last forever. It is also the case that after a run of acceptances the next rejection hits harder. The mind of a writer is a strange thing.

I need two sets of submissions in the next couple of weeks – one to a magazine where I have had some minor success and one where I have had no success at all since a change of editor. I had a look through my list of pending/unfinished/work in progress and decided that there is very little there of any merit. I need a surge of enthusiasm and a flash of inspiration to set me going again.

Memories of Fotheringhay

I sat down at 11.15 to write the daily blog. I then started answering comments, reading a couple of blogs, looking something up on Wikipedia, and before I knew where I was it was another day and my target of daily blogging was, again, in tatters.

However, I did read about Sang Culture on Billy Mann’s Blog and a guest post about dustmen on Derrick Knight’s Blog. Both were worthwhile exercises. There is just so much to do and so much to read. Derrick mentioned Sandy Denny in one of his comments and I looked her up on Wiki. I knew she’d sung with Fairport Convention and was well thought of, but that’s as far as it went. My knowledge of many subjects, including music is patchy and I need to top it up. It sems she sang a song called Fothringay and performed in a group called Fotheringay. The song is about Mary Queen of Scots and her captivity in Fotheringhay Castle. Note the spelling. I did write about Fotheringhay a year or two back. Twice. I thought I’d have a listen to the song as I’m in the process of writing about Fotheringhay. It’s probably about time I finished it and sent it to an editor. However, having listened to Sandy Denny’s version I have to say mine still needs some work.

That, I’m afraid, reminds me that I have work to do. Some would call it writing, or enjoyment, but I call it work. This may mean that I don’t have a proper appreciation of proper work, but it may equally mean that those who consider it sitting down typing don’t appreciate the real effort of writing. I mention no names here, but the discussion hinged round the lack of housework I did over the Bank Holiday.

The top photo is the church at Fotheringhay, the last resting place of several members of the House of York, including the Second Duke (killed at Agincourt in 1415). The 3rd Duke of York is buried there too, with his son Edmund – both killed at Wakefield in 1460. The 3rd Duke is the father of two Kings –  Edward IV and Richard III.

Site of Fotheringhay Castle – now just a mound and a pile of stones. 

 

Thinking After Midnight

I didn’t start writing until after midnight last night. Or, more accurately, I didn’t start writing until after midnight this morning. The second sentence is the more accurate, I think, but it looks wrong.

That was the trouble with the blog post I produced. Something was wrong with it and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It started with words like “vicious cycle” and “good habits” and slid (via an historically inaccurate view of Boadicea with a knife-equipped chariot) into a discussion on  the change of Boadicea’s name to Boudicca and how I wouldn’t mind giving monastic life a go if it featured more carpeting. It’s hard to write a blog post based on such stuff. Finally, at 1 am, after several edits, I decided it wasn’t working and binned the lot.

I think what happened was that under the influence of fatigue, the punning part of my brain broke free and started playing with words. It does that sometimes. If you ever happen to be sitting next to me when I start smiling for no discernable reason it’s because two words have just connected in my head and the result has amused me.

I may be doing something like watching TV, listening to a speech or typing a blog post. but my mind is miles away. I may be in a coin shop in Nottingham discussing the price of packaging to Austria, but inside my head I am in Morecambe, or the Karoo or 1642. I have inherited this from my father.  He had the ability to hold a conversation on one subject while his brain was engaged in calculating something completely different. That, I think, sums up the similarities and differences between the two of us. We both have the ability to think about two things at the same time, but he would be solving a problem at work, while I just conjure up mental images of a bicycle with knives attached to its wheels.

Meanwhile, I have come up with a photo for my biographical notes. It is reasonably accurate but by using one that already exists I can avoid tidying myself up. It may need some work doing on the size as it seems rather large when you open the page. Meanwhile, I’m tempted by the pink one, but I’m not sure it presents quite the right image. It’s the sort of photo that you get when you leave a camera unattended in a monkey enclosure.

The Pink One

Stuck for a Subject

It’s 23.22 and I have made a late start. I have also made two false starts, one on the subject of writer biographies and one on the subject of aiming for 100 rejections.

I have a strong dislike of biographical notes in poetry magazines, because I really don’t give a toss for the lives of the various poets that appear in the magazines I subscribe to. I don’t read them because I am interested to know that A spent twenty years in teaching or B has a degree in Creative Writing. I read them because they write something worth reading. I am at one with the editors who don’t do notes on the grounds that the magazine is about poetry.

I’m not against talking about myself, as you will know if you read the blog regularly, but I am against writing about myself when I’m trying to get poetry published. There are too many dull biographical notes, including ones that are just lists of publications, and I don’t see any need to add to them.

Anyway, I have nothing interesting to say.

I’m currently deciding on the look for the photograph one magazine has asked me for. Do I take a selfie as I am? That will, as Julia points out, establish me as a man in the tradition of W H Davis, the tramp poet. Though, strangely, he always looks well-groomed in all the photos you see of him. Or do I  shave my head, trim my beard and end up looking like the idiot brother of Ming the Merciless? It’s not an easy choice, and it doesn’t change my writing, just the opinion people have of me.

Then there is the question of the 100 rejections. It’s really about upping the number of submissions and aiming high. That, so far, is where I have failed. I only made four submissions last month and so far this month have only submitted one thing. I have several other submissions in the planning stage but I doubt I’ll manage more than four this month, as I don’t have the finished material to send. It hasn’t helped that I’ve slowed down this month, just when I really needed to get a move on.

When I started writing poetry I didn’t realise that so much of my writing life would revolve around haircuts, autobiography and planning. I thought it was all about writing. Silly me.

Robin on a Fence

Chaffinch on the same fence

 

Twelve Ideas

Lat night I wrote a list of ideas when I was looking for subjects to write about.  I ended up with eleven, which grew to twelve when I decided to write about writing a list of things to write about. Ideas, as I may have said before, are not difficult to come by. I could probably have thought of 20-30 more, but I find that having too many ideas is not always a good thing. If you have too many the quality tails off and you never get to the end of the list.

I meant to start using them last night but by the time I’d written the blog post and edited work in progress, I ran out of energy. This morning I started with some reading and commenting and have just looked at the list un front of me.

Twelve ideas became ten because two are undecipherable. That became  eleven when I remembered what one of them was, and twelve when I decided that writing about bad handwriting could replace the idea I couldn’t read.

As I said, I don’t lack ideas, just the ability to turn ideas into results. I think I may have told you we once had a meeting on the farm and someone said, with a perfectly straight face, “My talent is having ideas, rather than doing things. If you want any ideas I have plenty of them.”

If you’ve ever been on a committee I think you probably agree that talk and ideas are never in short supply. One person putting one idea into action, that’s what’s in short supply.

On that subject, what happens next? Well, I have twelve ideas. You are reading the result of one of them. Four of them have moved on to be the prose sections of haibun. Three of them now have lines of poetry attached. Two of them will become blog posts. One, I have not developed, but will do. The twelfth, which was going to be about the trials of being a prince with a trophy wife and a massive trust fun, doesn’t really appeal. I am going to cross that one off. Sometimes you realise you just don’t want to develop an idea.

The next stage is typing the haibun prose and the first drafts of the blog posts. Some results will be good, some not so good. It’s all a process of natural wastage. Eventually twelve ideas will be turned into a few finished pieces and the rest will be used as spare parts for other things.