Saturday, January 29, 2011

Salinger and social networking...

At 10.30 this morning my kitchen resembled a war zone. The contents of five bulging Tesco bags had exploded over all available work surfaces, my sink was stacked with teetering piles of dirty dishes while rolling clouds of steam from the kettle filled the air. In the background the washing machine rat-tat-tatted like a machine gun as it started the spin cycle. And yet above all this chaos came the very clear tones of a Radio 4 announcer telling me that the programme ‘Hey Mr Salinger’ was about to start. My subconscious snapped to attention and I turned up the sound.

It took less than two minutes for the programme to captivate me. I walked away from the turmoil of the kitchen into the peaceful haven of my sitting room with a cup of tea in one hand, a maple and pecan Danish in the other and quickly nestled into the couch to hear Joanna Smith Rakoff talk about JD Salinger.

It’s well known that JD Salinger wanted nothing to do with his fans and refused to read, answer or acknowledge any letters sent to him. In 1996 Joanna Smith Rakoff was working for his agent and part of her job was to read all the letters people wrote to him and then send out a standard (and rather blunt) letter of reply. Gradually she was drawn in by the letters, into the lives of these people who were writing to him; she kept one letter and recently tracked down the man who wrote it – their meeting was both funny and inspirational. I won’t spoil it, you have to listen to it.

The approach that JD Salinger took with his fans seemed rather harsh to me and yet I can empathise with his need to keep the world at bay and to live in it on his terms. If he was just starting out as a writer today I wonder if it would be possible for him to do this so effectively. Would the pressure be too great for him now? Would he succumb to Facebook, blogging and tweeting in order to get his career off the ground? Personally, I’d like to think that he would ignore it all.

Since meeting Brigid, Jane and Stuart I’ve been introduced to the world of social networking – it’s been a steep and somewhat startling learning curve for me, especially as my natural inclination as a writer is to remain quiet and anonymous. I’m beginning to understand the vastness of social networking and how it can help provide a platform for an individual to have a voice. Use of social networking facilities can really give new writers opportunities unheard of before; no longer are they reliant upon an agent or publisher to promote their work, all they need is confidence, a bit of marketing savvy and their writing can reach millions of people.

The dynamics within the world of publishing at the moment is breathtaking; it isn’t evolving slowly, it’s going at breakneck speed and I wonder if there will still be room for those of us who are natural loners? The programme on JD Salinger really made me think about what it is I need from writing, what the world could need from me and whether the two things are compatible. I haven’t come to a conclusion as yet.

PS: and yes, that is a picture of John Lennon and I’m sure you know why it’s there!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

That sort of day

There are days when the idea I want to write about, arrives fully formed like a child born straight into adulthood with none of the pains of growing up. These are the best days.
Then there are those days that are full of grunts and moans. I may start with a word, a line or even an image, unsure where it is going or how it will turn out. In the end however, it all takes shape and acquires a certain tone and that’s when I realise what I am trying to say. To get to this stage requires discipline to see the process through. It also requires me to allow myself to waffle. Lost in the dross, gems may sparkle, or nothing may happen at all. I have to be willing to try and see. These are the good days and they are the domain within which most of my writing gets done.
I have learnt that whilst inspiration might give me the wings on which my idea might fly, it is best not to wait and write only when that happens. Those moments of éclat are rare. Most of the time, all I get is a gentle nudge. Writing happens because I turn up at the page to write (almost) every day. It happens because I know I can, and want to write.
The bad days are the ones when I sit poised over the keyboard, only for little demons of self-doubt to worm their way into my head. This might happen when I have read a marvellous piece of writing and feel I can’t measure up, or when I am tired and stressed and every little thing sets me on edge. Sometimes, it happens for no reason I can fathom. The voices taunt me, and I believe them. I begin to wonder why I even bother trying because there is no way I could ever write as well as writer X. If I don’t crawl under my desk and hide there, it is only because a tiny voice whispers back to me and reminds me that I don’t really want to write like writer X, but as myself in a voice that is my own, whatever that may sound like.
It is during these times that I feel it is most important to write. While I am experiencing these feelings, the last thing I want to do is the very thing that might save me. It is hard to stop the belligerent demons from looting and burning every ounce of creativity. I try to remind myself that I have the tool that will fell them swiftly, and I pick up the pen, if only just to speak about how pathetic my feelings are.
I might time myself for ten minutes while I get the monstrous emotions down on paper. Ten minutes by my clock, is not a long time. I may not feel able to write that epic novel that will take me years like writer X did, but ten minutes I can certainly manage. If I feel the need, I may even go for another block of ten. I write until the sound of my gushing stream of words is loud enough to drown out the vexing voices.
I have often found that this exercise is so effective that at the end of the first round, my perspective changes immensely. The walls of Jericho turn to rubble and I can see further afield into the exciting and adventurous wilds of my imagination. From there I may take flight to wherever the word, the sentence, or the image might lead me. It is the joy I find in this process that makes it for me, a good writing day.

Picture by eddiedangerous

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Butterfly Mind

I'm in love with writing.  Everything about it is delightful.  And I love to read.  Read words so cleverly composed that they trickle and gel to create a watercolour that undulates and flows, flirting with my emotions and shamelessly seducing my senses.  Words are magical and intoxicating, frivolous and deep.  Words can be what you want them to be.  Pain and anguish or light and free.  The writer chooses the words and their order, it is for the reader to plunge into those words and to be carried by the stream.

I’m in love with writing.  I love to write short stories and epic adventures, articles and reviews.  My mind flutters over each idea and, as a butterfly gently drinks from a daisy only to be distracted by the black-eyed Susan and the columbine, I drift between my characters and their stories, changing tack in the breeze, never staying too long but always moving on.  Of course, this flighty activity means I rarely finish a project.  I have pages of works in progress or finished bar the final edit, but another character will call, claiming ownership on my limited time and my fluttering mind.

I’m in love with writing.  Everything about it is delightful:  from conversing with my characters to dreaming up plots.  I fall in love with my creations, argue with them and cry.  But I never stay too long for other characters await the brush of my mental wings.

I’m in love with writing.  A clean piece of paper and an ink pen seduce.  The virginal sheet sits patiently waiting, the ink pen poised ready to leave its mark.  The fusion of the two can create a beautiful piece of prose or something dark and sinister.  It is for me to decide.  I submit to the fluttering in my mind and let the thoughts take control of the tool.  They tumble out onto the page, trembling and deliberating, gaining confidence and gelling, creating a union so tight I feel heady.

At last the beating wings are spent and for a while my mind is still.  But soon a character will call and the wings softly stir.  I’m in love with writing.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Taking that first step

I was talking to a friend a couple of days ago; she told me that last weekend she and her daughter had gone to the pantomine in Southend. She tried to explain to me how much she’d laughed and laughed and laughed, but it was difficult to make out what she was saying because she was laughing so much. As she wiped her eyes she said she’d almost forgotten what it was like to laugh but that it felt good. And I knew how good it felt because I was laughing too and frankly I felt bloody brilliant just being with her.

And then last night I was talking to another friend and she said she had so much to say but she was unsure that she should write down everything she was thinking, everything that was inside her. But she’s a ball of energy, a creator of fire that sparks and energises others. Why would she think she perhaps shouldn’t let out what’s inside?

But me? I’m no different. I forget or, worse, try to ignore what I’m like inside, what life has to offer and how good it feels. And then wham, it’s there, its face in mine challenging me to dig deep and remember what I was, what I am.

I know I can write. A little. I may never be a great writer but you know what? My small skill is there and it can’t be ignored although God knows, I’ve tried. I’ve been busy. Trying to survive, pay bills, the usual. I’ve drawn life around me like a cloak. Kept out people, kept in my thoughts. Occasionally I’ve let in nagging persistent fingers of light that stir my soul and remind me of what I am but not often so trust me, it’s a big thing when I say out loud that I want to write. I want to capture life and energy and laughter and tears. I want to capture everything.

So here I am.

And for those of you who are worried about writing, don’t know how to take the first step I can honestly say that we at writebulb don’t have much idea either! But we have taken that first step to try to achieve our goals and we’ll do our best to help each other as much as we can along the way. Don’t let life slip away without recording whatever it is that you want to say - throw off those cloaks and, in the immortal words of Brigid – Light on, Write on!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Come together, write now

Something powerful happens when writers come together.

From my experience attending write-ins for National Novel Writing Month, a group of writers working together in silence can be extremely motivating.

Looking up from my writing, and seeing others at work, lets me know that I'm not alone.  The work that my friends and family might dismiss as my "little hobby" is in fact the same work that has keeps them riveted to their seats during a good movie, or as they devour a newspaper or novel - the work that writers who stuck at their little hobby and turned it into piece worth publishing.

At the first open Writebulb meeting this month we asked writers to spend just ten minutes writing.  If they took nothing else from the meeting, we wanted them to at least leave with something they had produced.  We're serious about staying disciplined and supporting each other in our writing goals.

So, if you're reading this, look up.  If you can't see anyone else writing you can be sure that someone, somewhere is writing too.  So write, even if it's just for ten minutes.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Welcome to writebulb!

Welcome to writebulb! We are an adult writing group based at Chelmsford Central Library. The group was founded by its four coordinating members, Stuart, Kate, Jane and Brigid, who met during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November 2010. So enthralled were we by the NaNoWriMo event that we saw a need to continue meeting to nurture our writing post NaNoWriMo.
Writing can be a lonely experience. Our intention is therefore to create an environment where each individual finds support and encouragement to achieve their stated writing goals, as well as provide a platform for participating in the wider writing world, by providing information about events and opportunities that members can take advantage of.  It is also our intention to have published writers come and give talks to the group. So far we have an interesting line-up of writers, the details of which will follow as they become available. Watch this space!
In summary our aims are:
-To create an open, supportive community of writers dedicated to developing their writing skills
- To create a nurturing environment to help each member reach their goals
- To give members a place where they feel that they have a voice
-To identify opportunities for learning
- To have plenty of fun along the way!
As I write this post, we have already had our maiden meeting at the library which was attended by a motley crew of 14 between the ages of 14 and 65, all interested in different writing genres. These genres ranged from creative writing, poetry, biography writing, journalism, and blogging.
Our meetings, conducted within a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, will have a varying agenda from meeting to meeting. However, you can be sure there will be plenty of writing exercises to get the creative stream flowing.
We meet at the seminar room in the Chelmsford Central Library on the first floor, every second Saturday of the month from 14:00 till 16:00. Our next meeting will be held on 12th February 2011.
Everyone is welcome.
You can also contact us via our facebook group ‘writebulb’
Or email us, our address is writebulb(at)  (Please replace the (at) with the @ symbol )
Light on, write on ;)

Photograph provided by Markus Rödder under the attribution license