Alexander Averin

Friday 4 April 2014

All about writing


I read in the Indie  that it is Maya Angelou’s birthday today.   Very many happy returns Maya.

Something arrived on my Facebook page yesterday about the writing rituals of some well known writers. This was Maya’s entry:

Most writers can’t afford to check into a hotel when the urge to scribble hits, but for Angelou, it’s the key to great writing. In the wee hours of the morning she’ll book herself a room with a special request: all distracting wall décor must vanish. Armed with a bottle of sherry, a deck of cards, some legal pads, a thesaurus and the Bible, she’s spent hours crafting prose in this carefully constructed environment stripped of almost all inspiration

I love to have the thesaurus close by but haven't resorted to sherry yet.

Talking of writing and rituals, the writer Nina Milton has invited me to join the BLOG TOUR which is travelling around Blogland at some speed at the moment. Nina was invited by the writer Jackie Biggs whose blog is here.  You can read Nina Milton’s s entry at her blog Kitchen Table Writers.  Nina is a published author who has written for children, she has also written short stories and of late she writes exciting crime fiction.  She was my wonderful tutor on two creative writing courses which I did some years ago with the Open College of the Arts and I shall be forever grateful to her for her excellent advice.  I still think of her when I am tempted to use too many words or slip in a cliche!  I wish I could afford to do some more courses with the OCA; I can recommend them highly.

Anyway, the writers' TOUR involves answering these four questions and then nominating one or two other writers to do the same.

1. What am I working on?

2. How does my work differ?

3. Why do I write?

4.  How does my process of writing work?

     So here are my answers.

1.  What am I working on?

Unlike most of these ‘blog tourists’ I am not a professional writer or published author, I am just a blogger.  I have never submitted anything  in the hope of getting it published.  I have entered poems into local Eisteddfodds and won prizes and I did win one prize in a writing competition, the only competition I have ever entered!

I have been blogging for seven years now and I amaze even myself as I don’t think I have ever kept up with anything for so long  before.  It started life quite by chance as a sort of nature diary which I entered into a Country Living magazine competition and (coincidentally) Nina Milton encouraged me to continue it;  I did so and it sort of grew into a blog.

The joys of blogging and reading others’ blogs have been many and are continuing.  I have met and am still meeting many inspirational and likeminded folk from all over the world.

My other passion of late is photography and I have a blog for some of my photos here.  I am planning to put words to some of my own images, I am quite excited about that.

Funny how things turn out.

I mainly write poems;  I have a huge collection which is growing all the time and I am also writing a story in novel form based on my own and my mother’s life as there is quite a tale there to tell.  It has been an ongoing project for too long but I am determined to move it on somewhat this year. I have also written a sort of nature journal, a kind of meditative piece  which is almost ready. Ready for what I don’t know.

2.  How does my work differ?

Not quite sure how to answer that.

If a writer is to succeed they should have their own original voice which speaks from the heart and I am striving to find my own.

3. Why do I write? 

I have had a passion for the written word since I was a child.  I live and breathe books and have just retired from my (perfect) job as a librarian.  When I was quite young I used to fill exercise books with my stories of adventure. If I wasn’t reading I would write, both were my favourite forms of much-needed escapism.  As I grew older I started to write poems and that is what I concentrate on now.

(I am cheating in this next bit).

I have dug out something written a few years ago.  Nothing has changed.

Why I Write

I don’t write for you,  I write for me.

I write for you, I don’t write for me.

For whom do I write?

I write because I have to.  I am always writing in my head.  I write in bed. I write at dawn.  I write in the mists of sleep.  I write in the middle of the night in the dark when my pen makes squiggles that I hope to be able to read in the morning. Too often the words next day are illegible or just some kind of gobbledy-gook; phrases that in the night seemed to be some kind of inspired genius but in the morning present themselves as the ramblings of a madwoman.  I write all day in my head.  I write in a flash of inspiration.

I can write if there is a deadline but I don’t really like to write to order.  I write in draft by hand.  I write letters and emails in my head.  I love to write in notebooks colourfully pleasing to my eye,  I have a collection of these waiting to be filled, all picked up on my travels.  I  write on little scraps of paper because I can never find said notebooks when ideas come to me . I don’t write often enough when I am out on walks with the dogs because I nearly always forget my wee ‘walking’ notebook.  I keep a notebook in the car which is a bit of a problem if I am driving.  I don’t write in the shower because I can’t can I?  Too wet. It is however the place where so many ideas come to me in a flash. From where do they come?  I think it is something to do with the running water, its elemental energies being associated with feelings and inspiration.

I do  quite often write when angry and the need to communicate my feelings is intense.

I write for enjoyment, especially this blog.

I probably write for therapy.

I write rather than speak.

I write my life.

4.  How does my process of writing work?

I dream a lot.

This would be my dream home and writing location in the west of Ireland.  I actually live in mid- Wales which is beautiful but is not my spiritual home.

I am lucky in that I live in a most beautiful part of mid-Wales so inspiration is not hard to seek out. It would be very strange not to be inspired artistically in some way by living here.  As I am not a ‘professional’ writer I am very lucky as I can and do write whatever I like and whenever the mood takes me and I don’t have to keep to any deadlines.

I get flashes;  lines and phrases will come to me, or I may see visions that move me.  I may hear something. I collect words that appeal to me and also ideas.   I scribble by hand and then type up and edit on the computer (that is the fun part).  A poem is put to rest and then brought out daily and (usually) edited many times before it is finished.  And like Valery I don’t think a poem is ever finished, I am never satisfied that it can’t be improved upon.

I have a little room upstairs in my tiny cottage which I have given the grand name ‘the study’. It is open to the stairs and is not that peaceful as I can hear the television downstairs if it is switched on. I often put headphones on and listen to music while writing; I have many songs on Spotify and enjoy shuffling through its library. I sit at the computer and look out at my garden which at the moment is filled with daffodils and primroses. A river flows through it and our field is beyond. I am so lucky to live here in this old blacksmith’s cottage, how could I not be inspired to write?

I hope you have enjoyed reading my attempts at the four questions.  I would like to nominate some ‘proper’ writers to take this tour and I shall get back to you with their names once I have their agreement.

Watch this space!

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,



Anonymous said...

That was very interesting Cait. I've always written too and my blog came about as a way of doing that outside of poetry and novels. I am feeling the urge again though and have a story I wrote some time for L which I'm going to work on over the summer and I'm really looking forward to it. I think writing is in the soul. West Ireland is a place I'm drawn to too.

donna baker said...

Very interesting Cait. What do you think about a writer not writing. Librarian was your calling; what a wonderful job for you. I've heard words while out walking and sleeping. Tell me this. I thought I'd heard most all, but a new word, twee, was used recently. Is it used where you are from? Hope it won't be used to death, like bespoke. So sick of that word being used all the time.

Elizabeth said...

So interesting, Cait.
I was first drawn to your story about the strange hospital when you (or anyway the protagonist of your story) was a trainee nurse.
But I also love your poems.
Yes, best time for inspiration is when half asleep half awake.
And, yes, when my stories are going well, the characters actually seem to speak to me. (And I'm not completely nuts...well I hope not!)
Will try to do a blog post on this theme myself.

Cait O'Connor said...

Donna. Twee is a word sometimes used here - I found this definition online for you:
'Something that is sweet, almost to the point of being sickeningly so. As a derogatory descriptive, it means something that is affectedly dainty or quaint, or is way too sentimental.'
Is this the same meaning for the word with you? Bespoke is not 'used' here, how is it used with you?

I always fancied being a librarian when I was a child but thought they weren't allowed to speak (!) so it lost its appeal but I did work as a librarian in later life and loved every minute, I trained as a state registered nurse prior to that and have also been a secretary and a dental nurse. I was a full-time mother while my children were young which was the best and most important job of all.

Mac n' Janet said...

Thank you for sharing your writing process with me. You may not be a published author, but you need to know that you have made me into a person who now appreciates poetry, especially yours. I didn't think anyone could do that.

Susan Anderson said...

Really enjoyed reading about your process as a writer. Such an interesting thing to think about…


Catherine said...

Loved reading more about you and how you work. Keep blogging!! You have always been an inspiration to me and many others. I have a new picture of you now in the study in mid Wales, but I always knew you dreamed of Ireland:~)

Reading Tea Leaves said...

Cait, I have really enjoyed reading your contribution to the writers' TOUR.

I've always loved your poetry, which I find engaging and honest, and your love for the west of Ireland comes across so clear in your blog.

Thank you for sharing this very interesting post.

Jinksy said...

Fairies in the garden? Yay! You've just given me the subject for my next post...