Tag Archives: writer

Relief For Writer’s Block…Friday Fictioneers

Waking me up from a trance, my husband asked: “What did that poor pen ever do to you? You’ve not only chewed its head off, you’re lucky you didn’t break a tooth.”

Obviously,  pen chewing is a revolting, potentially hazardous, bad habit. I’m not stupid. However, what my husband doesn’t appreciate, is the power of pen chewing to shift even the most resistant writer’s block. Indeed, it has what I privately refer to as a “laxative effect”. The only downside, is trying to catch all the words before they run away, and holding my hand wasn’t going to help.

…..

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Priya Bajpal

Best wishes,

Rowena

Clean Desk, Clear Mind…

The day isn’t over yet, and it is entirely possible that I could have a clean desk, and a clear mind before the moon sets. I’m just not so sure about the kitchen table. At this point, it’s been buried and more like a case of RIP. Then again, there might just be enough air pockets to sustain life. Indeed, I can just detect a feeble heartbeat.

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This is where I could have been today.

Just to clarify things a little. It’s Monday afternoon here and it’s a public holiday to celebrate what has become the mythical eight hour day. Being Spring with a bright blue sky and lashings of sunshine, we could be down the road at the beach right now. However, Geoff had the audacity to remind me that I still haven’t cleared my desk to set up the stereo we bought last December. It’s only October. A full year hasn’t expired yet. In terms of procrastination, this job is only half baked.

So, instead of going to the beach and carpe diem seizing the day for pleasure and relaxation, the day has grabbed me by the short and curlies and taken everything off my desk and dumped it onto the kitchen table for sorting. The desk is looking fantastic and leaping for joy in shocked amazement. I can now see a gloriously clean wood grain finish and I’m listening to Icehouse. The stereo is all systems go and my in-tray is an empty as a dry creek bed in a drought.

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Shame about the kitchen table. Moreover, it just struck me that I have somehow been diverted into writing about this earth-shattering cleanup exercise and photographing the evidence while the kitchen table is beyond gasping on life support. However, don’t worry. This is just a perfectly natural phase of procrastinating. Nothing has collapsed…yet!

There are certain truths they leave out of declutter manuals. Of course, we’ve all heard about their do-gooder deeds: “Something in, something out”, “If you haven’t used it in six months, toss it”. Indeed, the zealots have turned decluttering into a religion, don’t you think? They even have confession.

However, all of this just leaves me a sinner. If our stuff actually manages to get off the ground at all, it’s more likely to be a case of only moving from A to B. Indeed, we’ve perfected the “Great Declutter Shuffle”. Yes, much of my stuff is very well travelled moving from one part of the house to another. Goodness knows how far some of the stuff I’ve picked up at the op shop travelled before it actually reached me? Much of it could well have a full passport and a truckload of postcards from a lifetime of travel.

I shouldn’t jest.

This is a serious business. I need to clean up my act. Having clear real estate on my desk feels so much better. I feel cleansed. All sorted. Ready to tackle all those outstanding writing projects. Indeed, this could well be the jolt I need to finally get some runs on the board and venture further afield with my writing than my blog. There are so many opportunities out there. As many possibilities as stars in the sky and yet I’m hiding behind my pile of books…all written by someone else.

Well, I guess that’s my cue to exit stage left and work out where the hell all that crap’s going to go and how and what we’re going to have for dinner. As much as I’m tempted to  throw the lot out, I’ve stumbled across some great memories and I really can’t understand these people who keep nothing? Do they even exist?

Are you a clean desk or messy desk person? Does it make a difference to your capacity to think and write? Get things done? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS The sun has just set and the pile on the kitchen table is steadily shrinking. Hey, the table cloth is even starting to peer through without compromising the wood grain on the desk. The in-tray isn’t empty anymore. I’ve set up two folders. One with letters and bits and pieces and the other has short stories I’m working on. There’s also a stack of notebooks. Consolidation required. It does feel good!

 

The Struggle to Belong…or not!

“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”

Albert Einstein

For many years, I thought it was just me who was “different”. Didn’t fit in or go with the flow. Of course, I knew I was different, and even had scientific evidence to prove it. Moreover, I’m “creative”  which automatically lands you in a classification all of your own. We’re automatically assumed to be “weirdos”.

At times, I’ve tried to conform, or simply conform enough. However, the older I get and with a burning sense that life is short, I can’t be bothered anymore. You can like me, or lump me. I’m not going to play to your tune.

However, is being myself and not being part of the crowd such a bad thing? Is being authentic actually more important than conforming?

I guess it depends on who you ask.

Today, I was reminded of these tensions when I recommended a favourite book of mine, Shel Silverstein’s: The Missing Piece.  It’s been animated here and it is really cute, as well as making some strong philosophical points… Maybe we need to be a bit rough around the edges. Perhaps, being a seeker interacting with and absorbing a full  smorgasbord of life, is better than being fat dumb and happy on the couch.

“A man on his deathbed or after he has been snubbed by his wife may enjoy a few moments of solitude, the rest of his life is a noisy gregariousness. He fears solitude as a child fears the dark, indeed it is a universal dread which one must learn to conquer. A poet learns his lesson generally by finding himself early in life shunned, he is odd. `Why was I born with a different face?’ Blake asked. Genius is fundamentally odd and men hate the exceptional.”

-Jack Butler Yeats

Edward Hopper room-in-new-york

Edward Hopper, A Room In New York.

 

Another thing that got me thinking lately, is that I’ve been hearing loads of people from all different walks of life talking about how they don’t fit in.  Have been the outsider. Experienced some kind of difference between them and the mainstream. Indeed, I’ve heard this so often lately, that I’ve actually wondered whether anyone feels like they truly belong. Indeed, is this sense of not belonging, of feeling different, something that affects the majority and not just the fringe?

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Apple Inc.

I don’t know. However, I’d like to find out and that’s why I’ve posed this question to you: Do you feel like you belong? Or, do you feel different or unique in some way that shuts you out?

Michelangelo The Creation of Adam close up

Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam (close-up)

As for myself, I’m simply starting to believe that I see the world differently, and that’s okay. That I have a way of seeing in between the lines, that has something to offer others whatever that might be. At the same time, I can miss things that are like neon signs to other people. However, that’s why we have community, because each of us has their own unique perspective, and I guess we’re all meant to come together to form a whole. However, too often, people ostracize and ridicule those who see things differently from themselves, instead of embracing their perspective and working out how it could contribute to the dialogue. It’s a pity.

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.”

–  Oprah Winfrey

There is also value in being your own person, and not just merging in with the crowd. Of not being afraid to stand in your own space, stand up tall, spread your wings and not apologize for being there. Each of us deserves that.

Edward Hopper nighthawks

Edward Hopper, Night Hawks

I’m not sure if all these thoughts have joined together in any kind of cohesive whole. If I was someone else, I’d have my list of points and might even be telling you how it is. However, I am more of a seeker. Somebody who is seeing dim shadows and shapes through the fog and trying to make sense of it all. Trying to make sense of what I think is an important consideration…Does anyone feel like they truly belong in  our modern civilization? That’s probably putting it too strong, but you get my drift and I’m truly interested to read your feedback.

So, I’ll leave you know with the thoughts of Aslan:

“Don’t doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are.”

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Rejection…It’s a Short Story.

Rejection..it’s the ugly side of being a writer.Not only that, it hurts…like a knife stabbed deep in our heart and twisted round and round and round by some sadist who doesn’t care about our fragile self-esteem.

Anyway, as much as we hate it and as much as it hurts, we are not on our own. Indeed, tales abound of very successful authors receiving multitudinous rejections. William Golding published his first novel, Lord of the Flies, after 21 rejections. Beatrix Potter decided to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit after rejection letters started to pile up. The original run was 250 copies; the book has now sold over 45 million copies.  J.K. Rowling, the great literary success story, failed to sell Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to 12 different publishers until the daughter of an editor at Bloomsbury Publishing took an interest in it. Harry Potter is now worth at least $15 billion. Stephen King sounds downright proud of the number of times he was rejected as a young writer. In his On Writing, he says he pinned every rejection letter he received to his wall with a nail. “By the time I was fourteen,” he continues, “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”

 

So, when I share my heartfelt angst over my latest rejection, at least I know I’m not alone and I keep some pretty good company.

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The Actual Murder Scene.

A few months ago, I entered a local short story competition. I only had a few days to put my entry together and decided to base it on a murder story I’d stumbled across doing my family history research.It’s set in the Sydney Harbour suburb of Balmain, which was historically quite a rough, working class suburb. I still haven’t been able to establish whether I’m related to these people thanks to a very frustrating dead end I’m unable to shift.

Anyway, after waiting several months for the outcome of the competition, the award ceremony was held yesterday and a room full of hopefuls all sat in their seats with great expectations and for most of us, pending disappointment.

However, I wasn’t expecting disappointment or rejection. I was pretty pleased with my entry and thought I was a strong contender. I was sitting in my seat with sweaty palms and almost making myself ill with stress. I wondered whether it would be better to win a Highly Commended just to put me out of my misery. The list of winners was thinning out and someone else’s name was read out instead of my own, I was gutted. Emotionally kicked in the guts.

While many would say my heartbroken angst was an over-reaction, and that I should have taken it as a sign of failure as a writer, but when you’re trying to make it on the international scene and you can’t crack the local market, you’re hardly going to be all smiles doing the happy dance, are you?!!

Well, to be fair to myself, I don’t write short stories and I had to get my entry together in a couple of days. So, I clearly could’ve used more time. Moreover, once I’d got home and looked up characteristics of the short story, I realised that my story actually needed a lot of work, especially when it came to structure. I’m quite the panster (person who writes by the seat of their pants and by contrast isn’t a planner) and a bit of structure and planning could well be added to the mix.

I posted the story today in its original format today and you can read it here: The Secret. I’d really appreciate your feedback. I’ve decided to make quite a few changes so please don’t hold back.

How do you deal with writing rejection?

Personally, I’m trying my best to be pro-active and learn from the experience. Rework it. Not just file it in the waste paper basket out of hurt disgust and despair.

After all, there’s always next year.

xx Rowena

PS if you want to see a great image for rejection, click here: http://rejectiondigest.weebly.com/

 

 

 

 

H- Ted Hughes: Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge

‘It is occasionally possible, just for brief moments, to find the words that will unlock the doors of all those many mansions in the head and express something – perhaps not much, just something – of the crush of information that presses in on us from the way a crow flies over and the way a man walks and the look of a street and from what we did one day a dozen years ago. Words that will express something of the deep complexity that makes us precisely the way we are.’

-Ted Hughes, Poetry in the Making

Dear Mr Hughes,

Hopefully, you don’t mind being jolted from your slumber. Through some twist of fate, I am  writing letters to dead poets. By “dead”, I don’t mean to infer that you no longer exist. It was just an idea I had after reading Rilke’s Letters to A Young Poet. Kahlil Gibran wanted me to clarify that:

“I am alive like you, and I am standing beside you. Close your eyes and look around, you will see me in front of you.”

Kahlil Gibran

Writing these letters hasn’t been as easy as I thought. I’ve never fumbled around so much trying to write a simple letter before. While the concept was a flash of inspiration straight from the muse, getting them done has been much harder than expected. Indeed, this journey is taking me straight up the mountain via a goat’s trail and I’m left stonkered beside the path waiting for my brain to catch up. Ouch! I’m not even half-way.

Even a kid in single digits knows you write about what you know. That’s the ABC of writing. However, I barely know you at all. So, writing you a letter must be tantamount to heresy.

That being the case, why have I written to you? Why not write to someone else I’ve known for awhile?

Well, I’ve observed that we also write about what we’d like to find out, in pursuit of the question, taking our readers on a thrilling, exhilarating ride. Personally, that sounds much more riveting than being bored by a know-it-all.

So, this letter is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship! After all, just because we didn’t go to school together, we can still be friends. Spread our wings!

So, while there are people who know your work inside out, I’m the new kid on the block. Indeed, I only stumbled across your poetry recently after reading Max Porter’s poignant novel: Grief is the Thing With Feathers. Your friend Crow turns up in the story to comfort a grieving family after the wife/mother passed away.

Crow_(poem)

Crow

 

Crow’s Theology

Crow realized God loved him-
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.

And he realized that God spoke Crow-
Just existing was His revelation.

But what Loved the stones and spoke stone?
They seemed to exist too.
And what spoke that strange silence
After his clamour of caws faded?

And what loved the shot-pellets
That dribbled from those strung-up mummifying crows?
What spoke the silence of lead?

Crow realized there were two Gods-

One of them much bigger than the other
Loving his enemies
And having all the weapons.

Then, I found out your incredible losses. I can not begin to imagine what you’ve been through!

(pause)

Ted Hughes

Anyway, I’m sure you know all about the awkwardness of the blank page. Indeed, I stumbled across The Thought Fox tonight:

The Thought Fox

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Besides the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

-Ted Hughes

The thing is that if we all just stay in our comfort zones being experts of what we know, we’d never grow. Rather, we need to take those cautious, tentative steps  out of the nest to explore The  Road Not Taken before we stagnate.

So, this changes the perspective. Getting to know you, is a sign of growth and it’s quite alright to acknowledge that we’ve only just met. That this is the beginning. After all, we’re not all going to be old friends who went to school together. Indeed, we’re spread our wings.

Actually, through writing these letters to dead poets, I’ve actually come to appreciate how little I really knew about the poets I’d always supposedly known. Indeed, I’ve almost felt consumed by my own ignorance wondering how on earth I could possibly pull of each letter and yet it’s happened. I’m really coming to appreciate that being inspired by a poem, is but the tip of a huge iceberg. There’s so much more.

However, when it came to getting to know you, your personal life had actually preceded your poetry. At least, I’d heard about the tragic aftermath of your relationship with Sylvia Plath. I wasn’t going to mention Sylvia at all. No doubt,you don’t want to be tied to her for eternity, especially when you’d gone your separate ways in life. I get that. At the same time, I wonder how you survived it all. How you kept going? So many other poets never made it to the other side of the rainbow but you did.

Sylvia Plath isn’t the only poet who has taken her life. I am becoming more and more conscious that poets are an endangered species. Even just looking at my small selection of dead poets, the stats aren’t looking good. Severe depression is almost in our DNA…not that I’m depressed myself.

poet

This troubles me…the mental health issues of being a poet, a writer, a creative soul. Why is it that so many of us go over the edge? Does our flame burn so bright, that we somehow combust? Or, does our writing spring from some subterranean pond…a pool of tears? That only the sad, depressed and broken need apply?

As I said, that troubles me because I don’t want to press all the wrong buttons and start dancing on the wrong side of the edge myself. I have fought tooth and nail with everything I’ve got to survive and be here with my family. Live my life. Carpe Diem seize the day. As much as writing is breathing to me, I don’t want to blow myself up in the process.

Moreover, as writers, I have a very strong conviction that we also need to look after each other. After all, if one of our own falls down beside the road, don’t we need to be the Good Samaritan and help them up? Quite frankly, once you know the pitfalls of being a writer, you have to stop and look out for your colleagues. Band together. That should be written in our charter.

Indeed, I would argue that saving a life is far more important than giving birth to a book and getting it published,  as much as I’ve dreamed, striven and worked the very hard yards and pray I’ll get there soon. When one of your own is hurting, you need to respond and not just stick your head in a screen.

Mind you, that’s all well and good in theory but when you’re in the zone, the rest of the world can disappear. You’re just left hammering out those words, going with the flow like a person possessed. Indeed, perhaps you are. This can obviously make it a little hard to live up to your social conscience when you’re off somewhere with the muse and not in touch.

That’s well and truly me at the moment and I’m just trying to get from day to day through these letters of the alphabet without completely pissing off my husband and the kids. Even the dogs aren’t real impressed. I know we writers have to balance writing with reality but when inspiration hits and it’s all consuming, I’m even reluctant to pause in case it runs away. Inspiration can seemingly be so fickle that if you give it the cold shoulder for even an instant, it could well desert you. Find someone else!  Once again, your book project bites the dust.

Anyway, as I said before, this is just the beginning and I am really thankful for this opportunity to meet. Here’s to new friends!

Warm wishes,

Rowena

Heart Hands red heart

Photo: Rowena Newton & Mr J.

Why Write?

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a POLITICAL purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.”

-George Orwell, Why I Write

Among all of the questions writers chew over and recycle, the one I keep coming back to both in my own mind and in the works of other writers is this: “Why do I write?”

Here I am reading at about age 5 or 6...good preparation for becoming a writer.

Here I am reading at about age 5 or 6…good preparation for becoming a writer.

While plagued with writer’s block or struggling to rub two coins together, we really do have to wonder why we do it to ourselves. Why don’t we just go and get a real job?

Why, indeed.

Yet, when things are going well and we are in the zone and each and every one of our senses is fully activated and alive and the most amazing stuff just flows onto the page and we actually resolve some of those inner conundrums and make real progress then we know. We know why we put ourselves through it.

Reciting my poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop in Paris in July, 1992. I had a little black book with my poems in.

Reciting my poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop in Paris in July, 1992. I had a little black book with my poems in.

There is no more thrilling adventure than the creative journey. Whether it is expressed in words, paint, photography, fabric etc; the creative journey is incredibly thrilling and stretches our imagination, knowledge and often even our physical body beyond what we ever thought possible. It is pure electricity.

Writing poetry at the Hotel Henri IV, Paris July 1992. Love this photo!

Writing poetry at the Hotel Henri IV, Paris July 1992. Love this photo!

So why do I write?

I write because I am a writer. Writing is what I do. For me, writing is like breathing. I’ve been doing it seriously since I was a teenager reciting dreadful poetry about romantic rejection on the bus after school. Indeed, since I was 11 years old and Mum taught me how to spell enthusiastic and gave me my Roget’s Thesaurus. I knew, even way back then, that I wanted to be a writer! I knew who I was.

Writing in my journal while waiting to see my rheumatologist. What are the results going to be? Jan 2014.

Writing in my journal while waiting to see my rheumatologist. What are the results going to be? Jan 2014.

However, pursuing that further, why is writing like breathing for me when for someone else, it’s more like a heart attack and they’d struggle to write more than a paragraph in a life time? What determines that distinction? What makes me write and write and write. Indeed, to keep writing long after my physical body has all but fallen asleep just to get the story out? Yet, that someone else can live quite happily without ever writing a word.

Foot Writer

Foot Writer- all pose, of course!

But out of where? My head? My heart? My soul? Moreover, is it even my story to tell or does it belong to the muse? God? Where are all these ideas coming from?

Isn’t that one of our eternal conundrums and part of the writer’s quest? !!

Writing in my journal at Palm Beach yesterday. I was so focused on the view I didn't even notice the DVD player on the table. I was in the zone.

Writing in my journal at Palm Beach yesterday. I was so focused on the view I didn’t even notice the DVD player on the table. I was in the zone.

Moving on a little further, is there a distinction between someone who writes privately for themselves and those writers who see writing is as a vocation and for them, if they don’t publish, they shall surely perish?

Personally, I do believe that writing with a view to publication is a different ball game and I guess this is why I am getting to  with this title. Why jump through hoops and push yourself beyond survival in the same way a marathon runner  pushes their mind, body and spirit beyond breaking point with the faith (or is it simply hope) of reaching the finish line. For writers, financial security is usually a pipe dream and we somehow survive on thin air and relationships with our nearest and dearest can become severely strained as our focus fixates on the laptop, word count and the intricacies of fictional characters instead of those we say we love. After all, writing usually demands silence or at least a sense of peace and that really doesn’t sit well with physical human interaction.

What follows is a big of a debate: Why write: the case against and Why Write: the Affirmative. I’d love to generate a bit a discussion happening so please comment, debate, disagree and provide links to relevant posts

This has been W for Why Write for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

xx Rowena