Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Wordsparks #002: Cure for Writers’ Block

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

 

 

This morning, I sat down to write, intending to work on a story I’d started a couple of weeks ago, but I couldn’t find it. I can only guess it’s on the other computer, but that left me with a problem. I was unexpectedly catapulted into ‘White Page Syndrome,’ you probably know what I’m talking about, but in case not, here is some medical detail, because the Internet is a great tool for self-diagnosis after all. 

 blue20nadeshiko20icon

 

According to many eminent doctors, White Page Syndrome affects 97% of writers at some point in their life[1]. Unless they are fortunate enough to take dictation straight from God, but that brings it’s own problems, as Mohammed would probably agree.

 

 

 

Symptoms include, fidgeting, nose-picking, palpitations, shortness of breath, restlessness and an involuntary compulsion to do low-priority household tasks, like sewing up the holes in tea-towels and fishing goo out of plug holes with a crochet hook[2]. Some resultant behaviours are harmless enough – doing repeated ‘Word Counts’ on works-in-progress and formatting the page to how it would look in a book is admittedly a waste of time, but causes no real damage. But in extreme cases you can develop a full-blown ‘Fraud Mentality’: that you will never write again, you never were a writer in the first place, and why on earth would anyone be interested in what you have to say anyway…

 

Familiar, at all?

 

If so, here’s something you should try. This is my ‘In Emergency Break Glass,’ exercise, and I used it this morning after an hour and a half of drawing blanks for ideas and progressing through an accelerated series of symptoms. It may not work for everybody, but I swear by it, and I hope it works for you too.

  (more…)

Extract from ‘Nailing Cats to Trees.’ (Work in Progress.)

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

 

She stepped off the bus unable to remember any of the ride home. All she’d thought about was how to put Ste’s invitation to her parents. It was important, she’d decided, for her to show that she had pre-empted their fears, but at the same time to play them down. Her argument was ready, refined to three stages: First, a calm, reasonable and confident approach.  Second, the statement of Ste’s invitation. Thirdly, the mediation: she was on top of exam revision, Ste was a good, responsible friend, they were going to pick her up and bring her back.

She pushed through the front gate, and almost collided with Dad who was coming out of the shed.

‘What’s up?’ she asked pinning herself against the wall to let him pass. Something was wrong; she could see it in his face. She watched him disappear round the side of the house. He was wearing marigold gloves and was carrying pliers. She carried on inside.

In the kitchen, water thundered into the sink. Lucy went in just in time to see Mum take Craig’s arms roughly and plunge them into the lather.

‘Scrub them!’ she ordered, passing him a nailbrush.

Typical, thought Lucy. In trouble again. Her brother was thirteen, three years younger than her. Craig spent a lot of time in the garden – they weren’t really allowed out of the house on their own except to go to school. Perhaps he’d been playing near the septic tank again.

(more…)

The Frustrations of Patience, and Outspoken 3P event April 1st

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

outspoken

 

I’ll be doing a set of short pieces in Clitheroe on April 1st as part of Outspoken’s ’3P’ events coming to the north for the first time. I’ve decided to a set of shorts, that are (hopefully) amusing.

 

Here’s a taster…

 

 

PATIENCE

 

 

Contrary to popular belief, patience is not a card game for just one player. It is, in fact, a fundamentally two-player game – a detail sadly overlooked in most rule books.

 

Player One deals the cards and proceeds to arrange them by suit and rank according to certain spatial rules. This half of the game is familiar to us all and requires no further explanation.

 

Sadly, what is often neglected is the role of Player Two. Thankfully, it seems we have an instinctive facility to abide by the true system that the rulebooks overlook. The game begins when Player One invites Player Two to a game of Rummy, Pontoon, Go Fish etcetera – it isn’t important which game, as long as it is for two players. Player Two then declines. (Experienced players may at this point enter into a series of coercions and refusals, but new players may skip this step for now).

 

 

Player One shuffles and deals the cards for a game of patience. Within a few minutes, Player Two should seat himself uninvited at a convenient distance and, judging their timing with care, should begin to offer Helpful Hints, kindly pointing out any missed opportunities on the part of Player One, trying to achieve a score of 21 comments.

 

Needless to say, the true object of the game for Player One is not to assemble the cards by suit and rank, but in doing so, without wrapping Player Two’s eyebrows around their fist. Clearly, the difficulty of such a task may go some way to explaining why these rules have fallen by the wayside.

 

Granny Spoon, Bobular Bells, Last.FM and Spotlight Slam

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

I’ve been exploring ways to bring my music and writing together more creatively, starting last year with a series of prose pieces directly inspired from songs I’ve written – not to reiterate the lyrics, but to pick up on the themes, or spin-off from the subject matter in some way. And then, the other night I read the ‘TV in the Snow,’ piece at Spotlight alongside Dave George, (which went better than I could ever have hoped for, he played loops with great sensitivity, responding to the transitions in the piece as if he’d been rehearsing it for weeks rather than, well.. playing it for the second time, as the situation was in truth!)

 

In Monkeyrack we’re currently working on a new audio anthology, in fact, they’re coming round to record later on today. One of the pieces I’m putting forward as part of my set on the anthology is ‘Granny Spoon.’

 

Exactly the sort of thing Granny Spoon might have on her sideboard

Exactly the sort of thing Granny Spoon might have on her sideboard

‘Granny Spoon’ had its first outing at the Spotlight Open Slam last month and I was very, very happy to come second! (My certificate is currently on the wall in the hall. :-) )

 

The thing about ‘Granny Spoon’ is it’s a bit weird. As Ron put it, ‘It has a touch of the Yoko’s about it,’ and Sam and the Plants said it was a bit frightening, but in a good way…

 

The song came from the guitar riff – I was noodling around on Tigger, the nylon string guitar I got from the Children’s Society charity shop, and later that evening the melody was wandering around my head and the lyrics, ‘Crazy granny making tea for me granny is making tea…’ came together – more as a fun way to fit to the rhythm, but I liked it’s quirkiness and Rob and I had a go at recording it.

 

Now… (and at this point I feel Ihave started the story in completely the wrong place…) we have a marvellous instrument called the Bobular Bells.  This delectable construction was put conceptualised by Nickie out of a set of shelves, a funnel, some glockenspiel bars, a spanner and a goblet. They were a birthday present for Bob, as part of his junk drum kit.

 bobular-bells-crop

Whilst recording ‘Granny Spoon,’ it became apparent that the Bobular Bells were simply perfect for creating the weird, anti-bedtime story atmosphere, as was a valiant hamster cage that I just KNEW would come in useful one day. (Thanks, fellow Morecambe West Endians – Sometimes you do fly-tip useful things outside my back door. The fish tank, for instance, raised a modest sum for charity and the chair that Scary Maisonette Guy hurled over his railings is now in my Mum’s living room having been repainted and recovered.)

 

So, I had a version of Granny Spoon recorded, but there was only the one line refrain ‘Crazy Granny making tea…’ twice in the whole piece, the rest was instrumental, and this is where the spoken word version as performed at Spotlight came about. I wrote a ‘poem’ to perform during the instrumental sections and we’re partway through recording it for the Monkeyrack anthology.

 

However, if you would like a sneak preview, you can hear the initial version (without the poem) on LastFM.

 

(Other tracks available including a free download of Bonejig)

 

I hope you enjoy!

 

Moll X

 

Wired In: March 22nd 2010

Sunday, March 21st, 2010
Wired In March 22nd 2010

Wired In March 22nd 2010

 

Monday 22 March 2010

For line-up visit: http://www.dukes-lancaster.org/music/wired-in

 

 

I’ve just finished tinkering with the piece I’m going to read. It’s a little bit different to what I usually write… I’m trying to do 3 different things.

 

First of all, rather than telling a story, I’m trying to use words to convey a series of images, such as would be seen in an abstract film.

 

Secondly, I’m trying to use images that either I personally associate with my hometown, Morecambe, or that are captured in Richard Davis’s collection of ‘All about Morecambe’ photographs.

 

Thirdly, I’m trying to invite listeners/viewers to see Morecambe differently. Not in any particular way differently, but to look at it with fresh eyes, whatever that means to them.

 

You never know, I might be able to persuade Mr Dave George of Electric Free Time Machine to improvise some loopy atmospherics behind the reading… I have just over 24 hours to do that.

 

 

 

TV in the snow

(c) Richard Davis

Extract:

 

…the picture wobbles. Now you are watching a home movie: a camera jerks round too fast – you feel vertigo, a seagull cuts an arc in the sky, you see a face in shadow. The face turns and the figure runs – a child across the sand, feet kicking up behind, to join a second, smaller girl who has her back to the sea. The camera angle drops as if submissive, you peer up at her from a dog’s eye view.

 

She points behind the camera, behind you. You are curious, you wait for the camera to follow, but it won’t turn. Frost crackles over the screen. Something is trying to stop you from seeing. You swipe the frost away. You are getting cold, cold and frustrated.

 

How can you see what she sees? The camera just needs to follow her pointing finger. You have an idea… surely it can’t work? You pick up the TV, lift it from its crust of snow. You turn slowly, eyes on the screen and… yes, as you turn, so does the picture inside the TV.

 

Finally, you are in control. The image sweeps across the beach in the direction of the girl’s pointing finger.

 

What will you see? The screen goes black and you open your eyes. Did you know that they were closed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bullet-Biting, Out-of-Body-Experiences and Eureka Moments.

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

About a year and a half ago I was busy writing a novel – an idea started over ten years earlier. It has become a familiar pattern. Every now and then the novel pays a visit. I pick it up for a few months and find myself writing ‘up to my bar,’ until, like an out of shape jogger, I find I have to let it run on ahead and leave me to catch my breath. Usually, I return to short stories until my confidence has recovered.

The last time I worked on ‘Making Sense of Stories,’ I had the benefit of working with a mentor. I learnt about pace and of relinquishing the urgency I had actively encouraged when crafting short stories. I saw my stories change: there’s an easiness in them that I couldn’t create before. I see it comparing this year’s ‘Nailing Cats to Trees,’ with ‘50p for the Aquarium,’ from several years ago.

I pushed on with the novel for about six months, but it had a problem. I knew it was there and had a fairly good idea of what it was, but you know what it’s like when a page is full of words that you’ve put there. You can’t see out, you can’t step back, because, like an incantation, you’ve just worked so hard to immerse yourself in it and now it won’t let you go even though you need it to. And it’s not simply a case of being unable to ‘murder your darlings,’ – there’s nothing to say what’s a darling and what isn’t – it’s all jumbled together in one big Eton Mess.

I decided to set it aside for a while, yes, because I was knackered, but also because I know what happens when I write on with something that I’m unsure about. The pages slowly build, but they all need deleting afterwards.

In a nutshell, in the novel, a twenty-one year-old has a crack at growing up and partially succeeds. It’s in first person, so the voice has to be true to her age and experience, but also leave room for growth. That bit wasn’t too bad. The problem was I also created a narrator who some readers wanted to slap – myself included – almost from the outset.

So what? She’s going to change, she’s learning, she’s human and we all have slappable characteristics … but it’s like real life: some people are idiots and you love them deeply, some people are idiots and you resent the breath it takes to say their name. I could imagine 50% of my readers losing interest before they saw how she was changing.

Eighteen months passed and last weekend I read the draft again and had a kind of Out-Of-Body Experience. I wasn’t woven into the story anymore – I could float above it, high in the air over Colmesey and look down at the bay, the town, at the characters, at the story. I had regained perspective.

I had known there was a problem with chronology, but eighteen months ago there was no room for manoeuvre, my brain couldn’t cope with the chain reaction that would start with a ‘simple’ change at the beginning. But now I can see it not only needs to be done, but it won’t actually be that horrendous to implement.

And the problem with the narrator’s voice. Duh. The solution was blummin’ obvious. I am making a new start on a new start…

 

Totally Wired June 6th @ Storey. Doors: 7.30pm

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

totally-wired-icon1

A Blast of Cultural Mayhem!

Featuring:

Mollie Baxter (doing a words and music combo)

Jo Gillot (captivating singer-songwriter)

Ottersgear (Mikey Kenny’s and band)

Vik Lawless (Poet)

Improv Express (Improvisation Troupe)

And others – a veritable feast of entertainment.

Tickets £5 (on the door or from The Book Room on Meeting House Lane, Lancaster)

Little Birthday Bohemia

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Current Mood:Happy emoticon Happy

Little Birthday Bohemia
Sunday May 10th
Olive Bar, Gregson
 
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a birthday party, but this year I got organised. On the evening of Sunday 10th May, we had ‘Little Birthday Bohemia,’ a night of hawthorn, music, poems, comedy and rocky road.
 
(more…)