Tag Archives: writing

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.

 

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

 

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 Dying Fall

Life is a bit dull at the moment. It’s like my normal life but with added tedium and a dash of boredom thrown in. Of course, if it were exciting it would probably be worse. Excitement, in the form of boundary disputes, car breakdowns and pandemics, is not good either. I know I should be grateful for the monotony, but when the most exciting event of the week is watching Sharpe on TV, there is something wrong.

I really need to do more writing, send more submissions out and start playing editor roulette again. There’s nothing quite like a rejection letter for rousing the passions as yet one more philistine fails to appreciate your endeavours. Ans similarly, there’s nothing quite so worrying as an acceptance, meaning ta the whole world is about to laugh at you when they see your work and realise it’s rubbish.

Currently I don’t have too much out, just two competition entries, one lot of haibun and an article. The competition entries are doomed, they always are. The haibun are currently under consideration and the article is, I think, doomed. There’s going to be very little in the way of excitement coming from there.

There isn’t much coming up in the next month in the way of deadlines, though the month after that is going to be busy.  I am preparing my material for March and April, but I am, unfortunately, not the most industrious of men unless I have a deadline coming up.

I was reading an essay by a writer of haiku recently, in which he notes that most of his haiku have been in progress for about a year by the time he gets round to finishing them. He is quite clearly a patient and focussed man. I, of course, am not, and should probably go back to writing clerihews.

Ambitious PM Boris Johnson
had trouble keeping his pants on.
Thanks to Dominic Cummings
he now looks a bit of a muggins

Writing, but more importantly, Reading

Just before falling asleep in the early hours of the morning I had an idea. This time I had my pad and pen ready and I wrote a quick note to myself.

This morning I felt like a proper writer. I so far as I am a person who puts words down on paper so that others can read them, I suppose I can call myself a writer. IN the sense of someone who makes marks on paper with a writing instrument so that I can read them later, the situation is not so clear cut. I’d definitely done something that approximated to writing on my pad. The marks were there. But it lacked the important element of me being able to read it later

It’s a bit like Mallory’s (possible) conquest of Everest. If you don’t get back down have you really conquered the mountain?

I stared at the riot of loops and whirls, done with a scratchy and slightly dry fibre tip pen and began to panic.  Is this, I asked myself, what dementia feels like?

Anyway, as my eyes recalibrated themselves for the grey morning light (I find that they no longer lap into action these days but take a while to get going, much like the rest of me) a few words started to show .  Even then, in the absence of memory, no meaning emerged. This isn’t surprising as a number of the words I seem to have used have escaped the notice of the OED.  There were 28 words in the note, for several minutes, and several readings, I couldn’t read a single word. It took another few minutes to extract half a dozen words, then it all fell into place.

Our the lent fen gus I line swiss by cuckolded winter. Blog beige abunt layings and precurstractor has benignly bun the wounded layet hucid hut for my new carver.

When I say “all fell into place” I may be exaggerating slightly. It took another effort before my synapses fired up.

Over the last few years I have seriously considered becoming a content writer. Blog being about laziness and procrastination has basically been the longest suicide note for my new career.

In other words, if you want to use a blog to get writing jobs, don’t blog about being lazy and unreliable.

As it turns out, while I was considering the new career the market was flooded with students offering to write for next to nothing, so I didn’t actually lose anything.

 

The Second Post and Working Hard

Here is the list and the results so far.

Done

Wash up breakfast pots

Make Cheese on Toast mixed with eggs and onions (OK, not quite soup)

Work on partially completed poems (completed two, edited four, found one I thought I’d lost)

Lunch

Research on bird names (needed for a haibun)

Research on free range pigs  (needed for a haibun)

Reorganised haibun files (not on list)

Wrote 200 words for a blog post (not on list)

Browse internet (research for the above post – not on list)

 

Part Done

Sort out two submissions

 

Not Done Yet

Start two poems I have notes for

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.

I have about 45 minutes before I am leaving to collect Julia – wish me luck.

This Moment

I have hit on a productive creative strategy – thinking whilst putting my socks on. After a certain amount of success with the technique yesterday, I managed to think about three projects this morning, including synopses and a few lines. Full of confidence, I set off down the stairs and, en route, completely forgot one of the pieces. Not only can I not recall the plan and lines, I can’t even remember the subject.

Fortunately two of them survived and the lesson about always having a pen and notebook available has been driven home. The trouble is that I either find myself with no notebook or too many notebooks. I am actually struggling with too many at the moment. I completed taking the notes from one last night but have one big book to do next and a few shorter notes to retrieve from other books. I can have as many as six or seven other books – upstairs, car, work, desk, living room, spares…

Then. like this morning, I can have none where I want them.

Nothing much else has happened today. I’ve dressed, thought, made two of the three notes I meant to make, had breakfast, read a few poems, checked a few things on Wiki, wrote a comment on  a website and wrote this. Time goes, but nothing of consequence has been done.

I will now have another cup of tea, sit by the fire with an A4 pad and start to plan. After lunch (which will probably be soup and sandwiches) I must do something of consequence.

Alternatively I may watch Murder She Wrote.

“ It is the season for wine, roses and drunken friends. Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

Omar Khayyam