Category: writing

10 Rules for Success

If you’re anything like me, there will always be a compelling reason why now is not the time to act.

It’s too early. It’s too late. You’ve not done enough preparation. You’ve done too much. They’re not ready to listen. They’re bored waiting and have moved on to greener pastures.

Either way, you’ve missed the boat. The next one’s a week on Friday …

Hey-ho! Like me, perhaps, you find yourself drawn to the words of this song:

Our modern ears might detect a dash of national stereotyping in there but, hey, Miss Peggy makes procrastination sound so appealing – sexy, even! – that by the end you’re all set to do sweet nada but sit out in the noonday heat beneath a great big sombrero …

From that kind of chilled-out perspective the song could be viewed as a delicious critique of the uptight, clock-watching, unforgiving world we actually live in. And weren’t machines supposed to usher in a brave new world where we’d all be freed from the drudgery of work to pursue meaningful hobbies and play constructively with our children?

What went wrong? Did I miss a meeting? (Several, but don’t worry, they never told you they were having them. Ed.)

No, but you see, I do worry! I worry that my urge to procrastinate stops me achieving anything much. Putting the occasional blog post together – although I sometimes whinge on about it – is the least of my problems. Without deadlines and directions, I tend to flounder. And to continue the fishy metaphor, you could say I flip-flop around.

A friend of mine once accused me – amused, I think, rather than annoyed – of having what he called ‘a shopping-trolley mind’. His idea was that I tended to pull things off the shelves, so to speak, at random. I reckon his real complaint was that this made me difficult to argue with.

I’m rarely short of something to say. If anything, problems lie the other way – I produce too much and lose focus, so that my writing tends to peter out having lost its way. I should edit, of course, to sift the wheat from the chaff but … well, you guessed it … I am prone to postponing the process.

Perhaps there’s a therapy group somewhere. My name is Dave Kingsbury and I’m a serial procrastinator … 

I hope they’ll be kind to me. Not like the originator of this brutal little list that I nicked off of the interweb and cleaned up for respectable readers like your good self. Can you imagine – the ‘f’ word in every sentence? It sounded like Bob Geldof!

 1    Do the work. Don’t be lazy.

 2    Stop waiting. It’s time.

 3    Rely on yourself. The universe doesn’t care.

 4    Be practical. Success is not a theory.

 5    Be productive early. Don’t mess around all day.

 6    Don’t be a baby. Life’s hard. Get on with it.

 7    Don’t hang around with time-wasters.

 8    Don’t waste energy on things you can’t control.

 9    Stop pretending. It’s embarrassing.

10   Stop being a people-pleaser. It’s sad.

 

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Image: deviantart.com

 

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10 Stages of Writing

That time again.

I glance up at the top right-hand corner of my screen. There, waiting patiently to be pressed, is the button marked Publish…

I say patiently, but that button is very purple. Puce, even, the shade a teacher’s face might turn as you wheel out excuses – each one less credible than the last – as to why you didn’t do your homework.

I won’t bore you with feeble alibis. Instead, below is something I read the other day that offers a little consolation. It helps, after all, to realise that nobody finds it easy. And to produce anything worthwhile, it seems, always takes the writer on ‘an emotional rollercoaster’.

 

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Stage 1: Excitement

“You must not come lightly to the blank page.” ― Stephen King

Stage 2: Uncertainty

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” ― Jodi Picoult

Stage 3: Persistence

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ― Octavia E. Butler

Stage 4:  Distraction (AKA: Procrastination)

“If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” ―Anne Tyler

Stage 5: Doubt

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

Stage 6: Shame

“The first draft of anything is shit.” ―Ernest Hemingway

Stage 7: Fear

“If I wanted perfection, I wouldn’t write a word.” ―Margaret Atwood

Stage 8: Courage

“Creativity takes courage. ” ― Henri Matisse

Stage 9: Relief (AKA: Euphoria)

“Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.” ― Nicholas Sparks

Stage 10: Pride

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” ―Frank Herbert

A Word to the Wise

I’ve never been one for New Year Resolutions. There’s a natural rebel inside me who kicks against rules of any kind – especially those I try to impose on myself. I mean, really, who wants to be told what (and what not) to do by a finger-wagging fool who can’t even follow his own instructions?
And yet … come the turn of the year I always feel in need of a little gentle encouragement. I’m looking for inspiration from someone who’s been there, done it and bought the T-shirt. And who better than Anton Chekhov, a physician who was also a playwright often compared to Shakespeare and perhaps the most influential short-story writer of all time?
Image result for anton chekhov
First, a few random quotes …
Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
Love, friendship and respect do not unite people as much as a common hatred for something.
Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.
We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.
People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.
Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be.
Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.
In a May 10, 1886 letter to his brother Alexander, also a writer, Chekhov noted six principles of a good story.
  • Absence of lengthy verbiage of a political-social-economic nature.
  • Total objectivity.
  • Truthful descriptions of persons and objects.
  • Extreme brevity.
  • Audacity and originality: flee the stereotype.
  • Compassion.

 

Finally, here are a few pieces of encouragement and advice Chekhov wrote in letters to Russian writer Maxim Gorky in the late 1800s.

 

“You ask what is my opinion of your stories. My opinion? The talent is unmistakable and it is a real, great talent. For instance, in the story ‘In the Steppe,’ it is expressed with extraordinary vigour, and I actually felt a pang of envy that it was not I who had written it. You are an artist, a clever man, you feel superbly, you are plastic—that is, when you describe a thing, you see it and you touch it with your hands. That is real art.

There is my opinion for you, and I am very glad I can express it to you. I am, I repeat, very glad, and if we could meet and talk for an hour or two you would be convinced of my high appreciation of you and of the hopes I am building on your gifts.

Shall I speak now of defects? But that is not so easy. To speak of the defects of a talent is like speaking of the defects of a great tree growing in the garden; what is chiefly in question, you see, is not the tree itself but the tastes of the man who is looking at it. Is not that so?

I will begin by saying that to my mind you have not enough restraint. You are like a spectator at the theatre who expresses his transports with so little restraint that he prevents himself and other people from listening. This lack of restraint is particularly felt in the descriptions of nature with which you interrupt your dialogues; when one reads those descriptions one wishes they were more compact, shorter, put into two or three lines.”

 

Like all good teachers he begins by praising achievement before offering a single word of criticism – and even then he is constructive, offering his student a positive way forward.

Don’t know about you but I can’t think of a better way to start 2019!

Let’s hope it’s a good year for us all …

To Boldly Go …

Speaking as a compulsive ditherer, I find it helps to reduce multiple motivations to a primary purpose. At the end of the day when push comes to shove and all is said and done, there is really only one reason for doing anything.

When it comes to writing, there are always a host of voices telling me why I shouldn’t bother. Refreshing, then, to stumble across a piece of advice that has the potential to guide me through the hubbub. So it’s out with all my How To Write books and in with this simple slogan!

“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!”
– Ray Bradbury

I’ll let you know how I get on …

 

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Image: iChurch OKA

The Write Way

Just read something which is too good to keep to myself. If I could only recommend one article about writing fiction, this would be it. Click on the link, let me know what you think …

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/04/what-writers-really-do-when-they-write

And I bet it helps him sell copies of his own novel!

 

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Image: Oxford Dictionaries Blog

Voyage in Time

A sentimental – even slushy! – poem about early childhood when my greatest joy each morning was lying in bed with my mum and swapping sense and nonsense with her …

    a secret key to everywhere

head to head           whisper soft
just us two            i just laughed
snuggle down           why does the sun
warm as toast          who life begun
nice and cosy          how high the sky
safe and sound         what where why
special secrets        only we
never to be told       riddle-me-ree
what say what          when is the moon
now and always	       late and soon
where our words        lost in dark
bibble-babble          gobbledy-gook 
che ma pasa            shan ti kapo
bazi baza              yabos yabo
little birds calling   let them sing
airy nothings          float in the wind
waves on the seashore  play in the sand
castles tumble         sweep of my hand
word in your shell-liketickles my ears   
shush now shush        sounds of the seas



This is the intended opening to a long poem about childhood that will explore the relationship between nature and culture which makes us what we are. I’ve made lists of childhood memories – the easy bit – and now all I need to do is write them up!

I may post the occasional extract to gauge public reaction …

What I must remember is that being creative is not an exact science. Things could get messy. A little bird tells me you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. And so, the cc-rack of eggshells and rrr-rip of  tearing rule-books in my ears, I set sail …