Thursday 23 April 2020

#Writingishard9 - procrastination

A deadline looms and you know you should be writing or doing edits but you suddenly find this insatiable desire to...




Garden...anything but do the thing you are supposed to do.

Social media is checked more frequently. You end up disappearing down a Twitter rabbit hole.

Get lost in Tik Tok (does anyone really understand that?)

Watch TED talks, Facebook Lives, check Instagram in case you've missed anything.

Update your website including recording those videos you've been promising yourself for ages.

Anything...but write or do those edits. You watch the clock, knowing the deadline is getting closer. But look there's a cobweb, you better get rid of it first. It'll only irritate you while you work.

Now you need a drink and something to eat. Perhaps you better have a wee before you sit down to
write so you can focus....oh what's that on daytime tv that looks interesting. It won't matter if you watch just for a's research...

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock tick tock.

It's too late to start them today. Start them first thing tomorrow. You'll have a clear head then.

And repeat

A deadline looms and you know you should be writing or doing edits but you suddenly find this insatiable desire to...

The world according to procrastination

Thursday 9 April 2020

#writingishard8 Anxious times

I am partly revisiting something that I have spoken about previously, but I felt it was important to do so again. I am going to talk about the pressures currently being faced. Damian Barr wrote an interesting article about this and also a fellow author had posted a status about the pressures he was feeling on Facebook the other day and these inspired me to explore the issue again.

It is very easy to feel daunted at the moment. There are all these online workouts, dance classes, choirs to name but a few. People are shouting about everything they are doing. Authors are producing incredible activities for their readers. This, in particular, was something the fellow author was talking about. They felt so pressurised to produce resources. They are not the only person I have spoken to that has felt anxious and overwhelmed by perceived expectations.

It was at this point I want to say to people, take a step back. Take a breath and think things through. I want to remind everyone of Matt Haig’s wise words from Notes on a Nervous Planet, which I know I have said to you before, but am going to say again:

How to be Happy

Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people
Do not compare yourself to other people

At the moment it is really important that you do what you can do and what makes you feel happy and comfortable. If this means not producing lots of videos, then don’t do it. You will find other ways to create resources. Life is hard enough without adding to the pressures.

Catherine Johnson
Don’t feel you’ve got to learn something new or do all the workouts. I tried them, but I walk with crutches and can’t kneel, it becomes incredibly frustrating when your body won’t behave, and everyone is lecturing you on what you should and shouldn’t do. Do what you can and what makes you feel good. Catherine Johnson has made me smile so much; she is posting videos of her dancing to songs she loves on social media. Philippa Francis post shorts videos of the sea near where she lives when she goes for a walk also on social media. The sound of the sea is glorious. They are both wonderful for making you feel good and I am sure both make Catherine and Philippa smile when they film them.

I am also aware the pressure for the aspiring writer, who have spent years working on their novel only to see articles about how those who have always thought of writing a novel will now have the time to write it as if you can suddenly knock out an award-winning novel in a few weeks. Don’t despair, remember you are way ahead of them. You’ve been honing your craft, polishing your manuscript
All about the rewriting

until it is in a fit state for submission. Hopefully, yours will be the golden nugget shinning out among a pile of rushed manuscripts thrown together during the lockdown and submitted before their time. Be patient and get it to be the best it can possibly be before submission. Focus on honing that writing craft. Remember writing is a muscle, the more you do it the stronger it gets. Writing is all about the rewriting. Do you want any more clichéd phrases thrown at you to encourage you?! Just remember you can do this. It is your journey, not anyone else’s.

The same applies to lockdown. What you do at this time is for you to decide. Do what makes you happy – if it is standing in the garden listening to the birds singing as I did yesterday, then do it. If it is producing incredible resources because you are a whizz with IT then go for it. This is your life, don’t let anyone tell you how to live it. Me? You'll find me getting lost in World War Two with two of my favourite characters, Kizzy and Jakob, writing a sequel.

Thursday 2 April 2020

Lockdown thoughts and a tribute to a lost friend

Today’s blog post is not a #writingishard post. Instead, I decided to write one from the heart. It is something I felt I needed to say. To say it is strange times is an understatement, isn’t it. We are living through history. In years to come people will ‘What was it like during Covid-19?’ and we will say we were there. People will write about this period in time. I find that concept quite surreal.

I know talking to friends that we are all going through similar emotions. A lot of the time we feel we are coping. Getting on with life doing a variety of things but then suddenly for no reason, we become
emotional and tearful. As I was talking to a friend on FB (Social media has never become so important as it is now) I think it is vital to acknowledge these moments of feeling overwhelmed. You shouldn’t be feeling ashamed of them. We are all feeling like it at times. My way of coping them is to do something mindless like colouring in a picture, doing some drawing (I’m a really bad artist but I know no one will ever see them), or dance crazily to my favourite music – it is the old adage, dance as if no one is watching – that is me. I live alone but I am lucky, and I know it, I have family very close, and I am mean very close. I was working yesterday and in the middle of a workshop, I heard this ‘NANNY’ being shouted. I opened my door and there was my youngest grandson at his fence wanting me to catch bubbles with him. There is a house between us, but Emily didn’t mind bubbles flying across her garden. I sneaked out for a couple of minutes to do just that. It makes all the difference for my sanity.

Family quiz
Checking in on people is vital at the moment. A quick message on text, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger, whatever is your favourite method can make all the difference. It can bring a smile or even a giggle. My social life has taken a real upturn. We even have a family quiz night now. I went to the virtual village pub via Zoon last Friday night and have caught up with friends and siblings too. It can make a huge difference when you live alone just to hear someone’s voice. But the things I miss the most is a hug. Is human contact. Is my grandchildren wrapping their arms around me. Is holding my brand-new granddaughter and watching her newly learnt smile. The bear hugs from my sons and the all-enveloping hug from my daughter. The ache for those is physical. It really hurts. Those are the things I am going to do first when this lockdown is over.

During this time my colleagues and I have had to deal at a distance with the loss of a great friend. We
RIP Prof Neil McCaw
haven’t been able to come together to share our grief. Prof Neil McCaw was a larger than life character. He wore the best shirts. He so kind, but never suffered fools gladly. I have sat opposite him in meetings and he’d give me a look, just slightly raising an eyebrow, with a slight twitch of a grin. I’d know that I’d get an email later with his ‘thoughts’ on the meeting. His emails were the best. I’d quite often get an email from him because he’d found something that he knew would interest me because that’s what he was like. We’d talk about tv programmes, theory of creativity, life, dealing with illness and dogs. I knew if I had a worry, I could ask him, and he would give me an honest answer. It wasn’t always necessarily the answer I wanted to hear, but I knew it was always the best answer. Neil was a great support. He always had my back. He mentored me in my career and celebrated my successes. He was a truly gentle man and a gentleman, so kind and generous of heart. He knew so much and was so interesting to talk to. Passionate about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Eliot. You could have a fascinating and challenging conversation with him.

He started, with Andy Melrose, the Creative Writing Undergraduate Programme at Winchester. He always strove to make it the best it could possibly be. His leadership was such that we all wanted the same. He showed us how to be the best academic you could be. It made you push to ensure your teaching was at the top of your game. Neil achieved his aim too. The programme was number one in the country and renowned for what it offered. We were proud to be part of it and what he was creating.

My heart goes out to all my colleagues and to his family. Neil, go shine brightly for us.

This seems appropriate a bit of Paul Buchanan