Monday, 1 January 2018

New Year, New Start?

Another year rolls over and the media are full of resolutions. It often seems like everyone is on the same ride, thinking and doing the same as everyone else. It can be heady, the feeling of being swept along with the rest of humanity. Or it can seem scary, full of FOMO and doubt.

Most years I have joined in with the resolution thing. Writing lists. Making plans. Some of them last into February, some struggle to make it to the 2nd of January! I love writing lists but hate sticking to what I have 'promised' or resolved. If I look back through previous blog posts from the beginning of January I find lots of things I 'promised' I would do and very few made it further than that.

This year I thought about doing the same, writing a list of things I wanted to accomplish in 2018. Yet I was beset with doubt. What is the point of doing that? I know based on past experience and my own character that I am great at saying it but really bad at doing it. For example, I promise to go to the gym more often. I even make a schedule in my head of when I will go - every Monday, Wednesday and Friday perhaps. I visualise putting my gym kit on, walking to the gym with some inspirational music playing, using the equipment and strolling (staggering) home all aglow and virtuous. But I don't actually do it! It lives in my imagination but is never transferred into the real world. So why pretend I am going to do something which I know I am probably not. Who am I fooling?

So for a change, January 1st will pass without me bothering it with unrealistic resolutions. I have decided that this year I will be kind to myself. No pressure, no expectations, no resolutions. Just a whole year of kindness. Now if that means I pop to the gym when I feel like it then great, if it means I don't go at all one week, also great. If it means I eat a biscuit when I have a cup of tea, lovely, it may also mean that I pass on the biscuit when I don't fancy one. But there are no rules, no resolutions, no depriving myself of the things I want in life.

I think I may be able to stick to this one ...

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Honourable Mention

I enjoy entering writing contests. I like the discipline of a deadline, the germ of an idea that is sparked when given a theme. I enter a few each year, not with any intention of winning but just to stretch my writing muscles and to get some feedback.

So imagine my joy when I entered The Write Practice Winter Writing Contest and got an Honourable Mention!

Thrilled isn't the word, I was gobsmacked. There is no prize, they go to the winner and two runners up, but I do get my story published in Short Fiction Break on December 27th.

I have been trying to submit more work lately, not something that I find easy but something that I know I must do if I am to progress and improve as a writer. Sending my babies out into the big, wide world on their own is scary but so far no-one has died! I now need to get working on my first draft manuscript in order to have it ready for the world. I am a little shaky on the process to get closer to publication but I think in the New Year I will start putting out feelers and see if I can make some useful connections.

In the meantime I'm going to bask a little in the Honourable Mention light.
So proud, so happy, so surprised. Do drop by and read it on December 27th, any comments gratefully received. And somebody peel me off the ceiling ... 

Plotting versus Pantsing

I spend far too much time wool gathering rather than actually writing and something that has been occupying my mind recently is whether I should plan my next project or just sit down and write in my usual pantser fashion.

The reason I have been thinking about this is that in the past month I completed my first draft of a manuscript which is now relaxing quietly on my hard drive. I started this manuscript during last year's NaNoWriMo and it was a tiny idea which I began to write and it grew like Topsy. There was no real planning, just a vague idea and a couple of characters. I really enjoyed writing this way, it's the way I have always written so feels natural. The problem is that at times I literally lost the plot! The thing took off in unexpected directions and I now know that part of the re-writing and editing process will be to find a thread that runs through it and follow that thread rather than wandering off on branch lines.

So here is the issue. I now want to begin another manuscript. I have a vague idea, just as I had a year ago. I have my characters, familiar ones from the first manuscript and I have an idea of the journey I want them to take. so do I plan or do I fly?

Pros and Cons
  • I will know where I am going and where I want to end up.
  • However I'm not very good at making a coherent plan and tend to abandon it at some stage as too prescriptive.
  • It's not the way I naturally write so always feels false to me.
  • It feels natural and I know how to do it.
  • I get lost down side roads and up interesting trees!
  • There is little cohesion in a long manuscript.
  • I wonder if it leaves me with a huge editing job because there is no continuity.
So here I am, sitting at the laptop, wondering how to start. This is a familiar place for me over the years. But it is mid December, I may ponder some more over the festive period and see where I end up.  Maybe there is a combination that I can find, some compromise that will let me plan and fly free at the same time. Or maybe I just embrace the inner pantser and go with the flow. Who knows. Certainly not me at the moment!

Monday, 23 October 2017

#MeToo - Why is it important?

The #MeToo thing has been sweeping the internet recently; women standing up and declaring that they have suffered sexual assault or harassment and that the time has come to say 'enough is enough, no more suffering in silence'. And I know that many women have found it hard to stand up and join in. I have thought long and hard about whether to write this post and even harder about whether to press 'publish' and send it out into the world. I guess I decided that if this was important to so many women then I couldn't stand on the sidelines and remain silent.

Like almost every woman I know I have experienced sexual harassment to some degree, less so now I'm older but that's not the point here. From the older brother of a friend who thought it was ok to get us to lift our skirts and drop our knickers to the man on the bus who thought it was ok to run his hand up my thigh; from the work colleague who thought he could just reach out and grab a breast to the cold caller who thought he could call me 'love' or 'darling'. We've all known what it was like to be objectified, to be grabbed against our will, to be made to feel dirty.

I grew up in the 70s and as they say times were different then. Casual racism and sexism were facts of everyday life. Try going upstairs on the bus in a mini skirt and listen to the comments. But there was more subtle harassment going on and it didn't always come from the boys. 'You'll never get a boyfriend if you won't let them touch you', 'You'll never keep a boyfriend if you won't let him cop a feel', 'If you won't let him grope you he'll think you're frigid/a lesbian/a feminist'. All things my girlfriends told me as I was growing up. No wonder the boys thought they could do as they pleased with their hands!

But there is a more sinister side to all this. If men grow up thinking they can do whatever they want to with a woman's body then it comes as no surprise that some men don't develop a filter. They don't hear 'No' they hear 'Try harder/be firmer/force it'. For many years I heard stories from girlfriends of the times they'd had to fight off the unwanted attentions of a man, sometimes with little success. I've had many tearful conversations with girlfriends who ended up having sex with a man just to get rid of him. How terrible does that sound?

And some men take things further. I have been assaulted by a man who took no notice when I said 'No'. For years I thought it was my fault: I had fancied him, flirted with him, found myself alone with him. So it was my fault for putting myself in that position, wasn't it? No! It has taken me many years to know that, to know that it was his fault not mine, to know that I was a victim not a co-conspirator of some sort.

Of course it's all about power. The power men feel they have over women. That a woman's voice is less important, that a woman's body is not truly her own, that woman just need 'persuading' when they say 'No'. That is why it is so good to hear women across the world taking power back, saying that although these things have happened to us it's not ok and it's not cool and we won't be silent anymore.

Because that's how it all thrives, in our silence and passivity. We warn each other about the office letch, the man you never stay in a room alone with, the octopus at the office party, the dirty old man with wandering hands. We need to shout out, to confront the men who make us feel uncomfortable with their attentions, to tell the world that it's not ok and we won't stay silent anymore.

So I say these things have happened to me, they were not ok and I stand with all the women who are posting #MeToo. Together we may be able to save other women from feeling silenced and passive and powerless.