Tag: inspiration

Water Cycle

Remember this friendly voice?

Sometimes you sit down to blog but your words and photos get stuck – prompts give them a push

That’s right, the late lamented WordPress Daily Prompt – gentle nudge of encouragement or brutal kick up the backside, depending on how far down the road of utter uselessness we were.

At the moment I’m an unlucky thirteen days up a clueless cul-de-sac and shaking my silent satnav in blind fury … although just now I remembered a useful link and, er, hit it.

Wanna know the useful link? Anyone who’s never short of subjects to write about can look away now. For the rest, here is a pretty handy webpage:

https://randomwordgenerator.com/

I got river, which I’ve made into an acrostic poem.

r olling ever down to wider seas
i carry weight of memory with ease
v olumes still unwritten seek their end in
e stuaries where water stories blend in
r ain clouds moving back to feed our source

Well, it’s a start … here’s hoping it’s set the ball rolling again!

 

Image result for water cycle diagram

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’.

 

Image result for roller coaster

 

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 …

Scraping the Barrel


Image result for the numskulls

This is an actual photo taken inside my head two minutes ago. It shows my inner progress chaser, who has just noticed my previous post is over a week old, hustling my inner creative director for a new one.

Hmm, could be a while, by the looks of it! Time to pour myself a beer. Perhaps the words will start flowing, too.

Image result for pouring bottled beer gif

I mean, it’s not as if there’s nothing to write about. If anything, there’s too much. The world is awash with woes and wonders. Where do you start?

And when you’ve started, then what? This, that and the other. Mostly the other, knowing your luck, after which you’ll scrabble around for a way to end the damn thing. Not with a bang but a whimper, more than likely! Then it’s Preview and … Publish!

Or Move to trash.

Question is, does the blogosphere really need another lament about how hard it is to come up with anything half worth saying? Should I not keep this guilty little secret under wraps and free up the ‘airwaves’ for those who really do have plenty to say for themselves?

Nah, feel my pain, peeps!

 

See the source image

 

PS  Well, that was nice. Fresh and hoppy with a hint of citrus. Pleasantly analgesic, too …

Far Gone (2/3)

Satireday

Greetings, Earth Dwellers!

Zog from Alpha Centauri here. So far my old steam-driven inter-galactic language-transposer appears to be working – touch wood! 

Well, I wood if I could but must wait and hope that quaint idiom of yours retains none of its superstitious force as there isn’t a single tree left standing within four light years!

That was a joke, by the way. Even the loss of our beautiful forests can be turned to laughter. We have learned this from your own comedy magicians.

Impatient for a reply to my previous communication – eight years is an eternity when worlds are burning – I opened your 1960s music box anyway and streamed its contents across our stricken solar system.

Who knew tears and smiles were so close? Unlike you, we grin when unhappy and weep for joy but such minor distinctions vanish in times of overwhelming emotion.

Overnight, it seems, our helpless mourning for dying nature has transformed into visions of beauteous renewal. Had we forgotten that art can be an open portal to fresh futures? And what else but shared dreams – especially ones catapulted across space and time – can move mountains and waken sleeping giants?

What you experienced over years, remember, has arrived here all at once. Perhaps continuous grief sharpens perception and deepens understanding but somehow the zeitgeist of your 1960s has become ours in an instant.

After all, we have our own folk tales. It comes as no surprise that four young men can bring exhilaration and relief to a society still in shock at the loss of a charismatic leader. Or that competition can turn into collaboration and catastrophe become triumph in the twinkling of an enlightened eye. Or that joyous economies of shared pleasure can supplant sad profligacies of solitary gratification.

When the time is right, my broodmother never tired of telling all 94 of us, everything is possible. 

Touch wood. Today I went out and planted seedlings. May Alpha Centauri (I won’t trouble you with the local name as it’s all consonants!) replenish what her children have squandered!

 

 

 

Command and Control


Image result for narrowboat

Two days ago my wife and I met up with two old college friends – now married and living abroad – whose chartered canal narrowboat had finally reached our town. After many years we had a lot to catch up on and conversation naturally focussed on children and grandchildren. Delights and disappointments were celebrated and lamented – achievements, anecdotes, adversities shared.

Their concerns about one of their grandchildren, born with congenital health problems, put our own woes – about the great distances we must travel to visit two of our grandchildren – into firm perspective. And we were glad to hear that the daughter of a mutual college friend, who developed anorexia when her dad died prematurely, is now much better and starting a college course herself.

Swings and roundabouts. Growing older seems to generate interlocking circles like these which bind us ever-closer to life as it approaches its end. Ripeness is all, as the Bard so succinctly put it. The sweetest is always yet to come.

At least, that’s the theory. Eager to revisit our youth, we embarked on a lengthy pub crawl – hilarity ensued, just like back in the day!

Well, there was one difference. Waking up next morning, I discovered my brave attempt to replicate the drinking capacity of former times had been, er, a little unwise. Hearing moans and groans, my wife – who with superior foresight had managed to put her hand over her glass quite a few times – was a tad unsympathetic. No fool like an old fool was one of her kinder comments. So I turned to the previous day’s unread newspaper for solace.

Another mistake. My ‘morning-after’ despondency was compounded by pretty well everything I read. I won’t go into all the gory details here. Unless you live in a cave … on Mars … you’ll know about most of them anyway – but suffice it to say I found avarice, bullying, callousness, demagoguery, envy, folly, gullibility, hopelessness, idiocy, jiggery-pokery, know-nothings, lip-service, myopia, nastiness, ostracism, prejudice, quiescence, robbery, stupidity, terror, unfairness, viciousness, woe, xenophobia, youth-quake and zealotry.

See what I did there? Yeah, A-Z, but behind that I’m treading water. Can’t blame the hangover, that’s gone! Think I’m fighting shy of specifics here. As usual. Maybe that’s a liberal thing. Live and let live, each to their own, horses for courses, whatever floats your boat … yeah, do your own thing, man! I still believe in all that stuff, of course, but there comes a time when the worm has to turn and fight. Or a mouse, when there’s an elephant in the room.

Anyway, it was no hardship to be dragged from the noosepaper by a Skype call – our other grandchild, my little twice-weekly playmate, just now away on holiday and wanting to chat. I had to be Baby and ask her about her adventures. It’s a thing we do where she’s the adult and I’m the junior know-nothing, eager for explanations. Sounds crazy, but it works for us. Helps make sense of a funny old world …

I turned back reluctantly to the real world and read this, in an article by Jonathan Freedland entitled Trump and his allies are taking the world back to the 1930s:

The parents ripped from those 2,300 children on the Mexican border were not led off to be murdered. But there are grounds to believe they may never again see their sons or daughters, some of whom were sent thousands of miles away. There is no system in place to reunite them. The children were not properly registered. How can a two-year-old who speaks no English explain who she is? Eighty years from now, perhaps, old men and women will sob as they recall the mother taken from them by uniformed agents of the US government, never to be seen again.

But the echoes don’t end there. The wire cages. The guards telling weeping children they are forbidden from hugging each other. And then this chilling detail, reported by Texas Monthly. It turns out that US border guards don’t always tell parents they’re taking their children away. “Instead, the officers say, ‘I’m going to take your child to get bathed.’ The child goes off, and in a half-hour, 20 minutes, the parent inquires, ‘Where is my five-year-old?’ ‘Where’s my seven-year-old?’ ‘This is a long bath.’ And [the officer says], ‘You won’t be seeing your child again.’” It’s not the same as telling Jews about to die they are merely taking a shower, but in the use of deception the echo is loud.

To read the whole article, click the link above it.

I read it all, eventually, but – no doubt through a combination of physical tiredness and my heightened emotions just at that moment these two paragraphs moved me close to despair. No more words, I thought, nothing else will do but music – and music of a certain kind where performers play off one another to produce something intricate, rich, strange and beautiful far beyond anything an individual could achieve.

The old ideal of teamwork, I suppose, where two (or more) heads are better than one. I associate this music with a time when you could sit up talking all night and, no matter how much divided you, by the light of morning you’d found something to agree on.

The lyrics, when they come, elevate rather than depress. And yesterday it worked for me where nothing else would. A spiritual purification, you could say, which I offer here as a still-efficacious balm in a suffering world.

 

Image: advancedbatterysupplies.co.uk/narrowboat-batteries/