Tag Archives: Creative writing

Procrastination sets in

Procrastination sets in

As most writers know, NaNoWriMo is upon us, and at the beginning of the year I had planned to participate this year. However, ‘life’ got in the way and I also found myself a good way into writing a novel by the time November rolled around. So, instead of putting my work-in-progress on hold and write an entirely new novel during NaNoWriMo, I had set myself a challenge to have the first draft of the original novel completed by November 30.

All was going well until I turned 40.

In the few weeks leading up to the big four-oh, all of my spare time was focused on party preparations, (because you only turn 40 once, I was happy for it to be a ‘big deal’).  Anyway, my writing stopped during this time and now, after the partying has come to an end, I turned my attentions back to my manuscript.

But nothing happened.

I sat at the computer, checked my emails, read the news, listened to music, played a game – everything other than write. Then today, when I was having a coffee trying to psyche myself up to write, I thought I should do some sewing, clean the house, go shopping etc.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, I have been in this position before, so I know what is happening – I’m procrastinating!

Tsk! Tsk!

Oh, well, at least I have managed to sit here for the last few minutes and write a blog post. Now, if only I can transfer this concentration and get back to my novel…

6,000 words!

6,000 words - done!

Woo Hoo! Who said it couldn’t be done? Well, I for one definitely had my doubts.

No, I haven’t completely lost my mind, (although I am working on it), but I did achieve something amazing today.

I haven’t written much on my novel for the last couple of weeks, thanks to ‘life’ getting in the way, so this afternoon I set my goals high and set about trying to achieve them.

My goal was to write 6,000 words today.

Considering I didn’t sit down to start writing until 1.30 this afternoon, I was expecting my goal would be quite out of reach, but there is nothing like a challenge to give my motivation a bit of a kick-start.

With no incentive, other than to reach the magic 20% mark of my first-draft by writing 6,000 words today, I sat down and let my fingers do the talking, (so to speak).

Anyway, almost 10 hours later, I have just completed 6,112 words!

I am exhausted, I have to go to work early in the morning, and my only sustenance today has been coffee, but I am so excited that I have managed to get so much written. This bodes well for the rest of the week, because, having been so engrossed in the story for so many hours in one sitting, I am keen to keep the momentum going.

It feels so great to have pushed myself beyond the goals I would normally set for myself, I just had to share.

Fell free to let me know of any writing goals, big or small, you’ve achieved recently so we can celebrate together!

If you want to write, then write

I have read a number of articles recently claiming to provide ‘expert’ advice on ‘how to write’.  If I was going to rely on all of this ‘expert’ advice, I would achieve nothing other than becoming totally confused.

The majority of the articles I have read appear to fall into two main categories – the first advocating a fully structured approach to writing where endless hours are spent outlining themes, plots, characters, scenes, conflict, resolutions etc, and the other category advocating a ‘write first, structure later’ approach.

With two equally earnest camps expounding opposing points of view, how is anyone interested in writing but not feeling confident about their abilities supposed to get past reading all of this ‘expert’ advice and write their stories?

I don’t for a minute claim to have any expertise in the field of writing – but it is definitely something I enjoy, and more and more it is something I can’t live without.  From countless conversations I have had since I embraced my need to write rather than ignore it, I have come to the conclusion that writing is a very personal thing,  everyone’s experience of writing, and with writing is very different.

With this in mind, I would argue that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write.  Rather, if you want to write, or need to write, then write – anywhere, anytime, anyhow.  If you get into a writing habit, without trying to meet the expectations of so-called ‘experts’, eventually you will find your own style of writing that works for you.

In fact, the one thing that all of the articles I have read recently agree on is developing a daily habit of writing.  For some people this might be first thing in the morning, for others last thing at night.  Some people will make a definite time to write, and others will steal five minutes here and ten minutes there throughout the day.  I personally don’t think it matters – whatever works for you.

So, if you are one of the many people out there who have a story or stories to tell, or one of the many who have said, “One day I’d like to write a …”, then the only advice this non-expert can give you is start writing.  A story will not tell itself, you have to write the words – even if it is only 50 words a day.

Alive and writing

Alive and writing!

It has been months since I have posted anything here.  My loss of creativity, written about in my last post, seemed absolute.  Try as I might, no words would come as I sat down to write, and then after a while I just stopped trying.

All that has changed over the last few weeks.

Even though I have two novels and one non-fiction piece that I had been working on previously, inspiration struck like a lightning bolt out of the blue, and I have been regularly working on a new novel ever since.

The writing of it is quite different to my usual method, so I am not sure if this has helped keep the creativity alive, or if the act of writing daily has something to do with it.

When the inspiration came, I was afraid it would leave as quickly as it had arrived, so I wanted to limit as much self-imposed pressure and expectation as I could.  As I sat down to write on that first day after having felt deserted by creativity for so long, I decided to write just 1000 words.

At the time I wasn’t sure if the writing would be a short story or something more, so I thought 1000 words was achievable either way, and by then I would have a better idea.

I also decided not to think about the creative spark too much.  Instead I just sat and tapped away on the keyboard.  Whatever comes, comes, I thought, and decided not to try and direct the story in any particular direction, but instead let the story go wherever it pleased.

The result, so far, has been fantastic – not in the sense of what has been written – but in the sense of freedom I have felt as I have been writing.  No pressure,no limits, no trying to make the story fit into any particular mould.  If it doesn’t make sense at this stage, that’s okay – after all isn’t that what editing is for, to make the story make sense?

So, I am still alive, and I am busy writing.  Hopefully my next post will not be so long away as this one was from the last 🙂

A loss of creativity

Unable to think outside the box

Have you ever read something that you have written years after you wrote it and wondered, “Where on earth did that come from?  Did I really write that?”

That happened to me earlier tonight.  I was looking back at some of my very  early writing and while reading one short story had no recollection of writing it.  If it hadn’t been a rough draft in my own handwriting I would have thought someone else had written it.

Normally when I read stories or articles I have written I get memories of where I was sitting, what I was thinking, where the inspiration came from etc, but for this piece I have a complete blank.  Why would that be?

Anyway, going back over some of my old stuff will hopefully inspire me to write some new stories.  I have been overwhelmed by emotional issues for quite some time now, and as a result have been on medication which I believe has hindered my creativity.  Oh, I still get ideas, but instead of being sparks that last long enough to be fanned into something more substantial, these are like instantaneous flashes that die and fall away before there is any chance of moulding them into anything useful.

Now that I can acknowledge my lack of creativity and the possible cause of it, I hope to formulate a plan to get me back into some kind of writing routine.  I miss writing, a lot, and I really want to get back on track – I’m just not sure how to do that yet.

So, while I’m trying my best to get some kind of story down, you will probably see a few more contributions from my unbelievably talented young cousin, Lucinda.

Fire

The following is a guest post by my 11-year-old cousin, Lucinda Cubbard.  Please feel free to leave some feedback for her in the comments section below.

Nobody guessed that it would happen.  The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was enjoying listening to the Old Gum telling stories of ancient times.  It was always great fun to listen to him.  He would explain everything in great detail, and would recite his stories slowly and carefully, as if it would demolish the purpose of the tale if he were to mispronounce a word.  I usually interrupted him while he was mid-way through a sentence to ask what something meant, but he was always patient with me and didn’t seem to mind if I expressed my curiosity, unlike all the other Old Trees.

He told tales of all sorts.  Sometimes he spoke of aboriginal rituals and beliefs, and other times he tutored me on forest ways.  All in all, he’s a great tree. Today, he was telling me about how whip birds cried to each other as a way of talking.

“Truly beautiful creatures,” he rustled.  “You may think that whispering through leaves is the best way to communicate, but I’m telling you now youngster, the feathered critters are geniuses when it comes to speech.  They are also the best ones to rely on when it comes to sending messages. The tune of the bird song stays in their head you see, so it is nigh impossible that they would forget the message.  And their wings are an ideal way to travel, as it makes them faster than most animals and they can also get through places when nearly nobody else can.  As you can see, they are the ideal mes-…“

“How fast could they get over the mountains?” I asked. “Surely they can’t go any faster than a brumby.”

“Oh, they can go much faster than a brumby, youngster.”  He seemed very amused by my question.  “They can get over the mountains in about an hour or so.”

“Really?”  A small shiver from his leaves sent me an affirmative.

“So as I was saying, whip birds are the ideal messengers.  Curlews are also good messengers, but not as so.  Their strong voices can be extremely useful, but not to someone who’s a mile away.  No, if you ever have the choice between a whip bird or a curlew to take a message, choose the whip bird.  Now I’m going to catch myself some shut eye, as I suggest you do too.  I have a meeting with Boobook tonight, and it’s probably going to go on for a while. ”

And with that he dozed off.  I watched him sleep for sometime, but I quickly grew bored.  I gazed up into my leaves, seeking out the purple flowers that I was now old enough to have.  As a jacaranda, I was supposed to gain my first flowers this Summer.  It had been a week since the first of December, and I was getting worried.

“They will come with time.”  Old Gum had told me when he had once caught me searching my branches for a blossom.  Lost in thought, I kept searching my leafy branches.  Five minutes passed and still no flowers.  I gave up and examined a bellbird perched on Old Gum.  I wondered if bellbirds were as good as whipbirds at messaging.

“Go to the Ancient Holly and tell him that his flowers are the finest in the whole forest,” I said to it.  The bird cocked its head and flew off.  Shock filled me.  I hadn’t intended it to actually work.  Oh well, the flowers were quite spectacular.

Suddenly, a curlew cried its blood curdling call from somewhere in the distance.  It sounded strained and panic filled.  I squinted in the direction of its scream.  Black smoke was rising from a few trees.  Horror blossomed in my trunk as I realised what the cause of the curlew’s alarm was.

“FIRE!! FIRE!!” I yelled. “FIRE!!”

The Old Gum was instantly awoke to my shrieks.

“What?” he yawned.

“FIRE!! FIRE!!”

The black smoke was approaching us quicker than a possum gliding through the trees.

“FIRE!! FIRE!!”

I glimpsed a golden flame slithering its way towards me.  Dread drowned my heart.  No longer could I scream.  The soil around my roots was suddenly dry and acid-like smoke was filling the small clearing that I grew in.  Flames whipped my trunk, setting it ablaze.  I cringed in agony as the inferno engulfed me.  It was as if the entire world was being set alight.  Through the flames, I saw many birds soaring from the trees.  Creatures of all sorts were shooting past my trunk.  I wanted to scream for help, but my throat was drier than a rock in the Simpson Desert.  And any way, who would stop to help a mere tree when their own life was in danger?

Glancing to my left, I saw that Old Gum was also alight.  But he seemed calm.  It was as if he welcomed the thought of death.  Well, I certainly didn’t!  Pain shook my body as my branches crumbled to ash.

“Hmmmm…,”  I thought.  “It looks like I won’t be getting any flowers today!”

I was disgusted by my own black humour.  With a sickening crunch, my trunk gave way, unable to bear the heat.  I tumbled down, and for a dreadful moment, the world spun.  Round and round.  The sky was now a charcoal black, or was that the ground?

That was when I blacked out.

*   *   *

With a groan, I reluctantly opened my eyes.  I had to blink a few times because of a shining light.  When my eyes adjusted, I saw that the dazzling light was the sun.  The sun, shining through what looked like black and white bones protruding out of the ground.  I looked closer and realised with a shock that they were not bones but trees.  Burnt trees.

Suddenly, memories started pouring into my mind.  I remembered that there had been a fire. I grimaced at the recount of my agony of being set ablaze.

This led me to remember that I had collapsed and rolled along the ground.  But if I was on the ground, then the world would be horizontal, not vertical.  I scanned the clearing, searching for my trunk.  I noticed that the ground did seem a lot closer to me now than it had before.  Ignoring this fact, I continued to hunt for my body.  And there it was.  A lifeless log was resting against another tree.  I recognised it as mine immediately.  Sadness filled me like water into a jug.  An empty jug at that.  It took me a while to realise what tree my body was resting on.

“Old Gum!” I exclaimed.  I was surprised I could talk after my voiceless episode last night. “Old Gum! You’ve grown!”

The ancient tree smiled down at me.  His trunk and branches were now white and black.  His branches were bare, which sort of disturbed me, for I had known him for my entire life, and he always had had leaves clouding his top half.  Only now that I saw the tips of his branches did I realise how big he was. He had known I was awake, but had chosen to let me recuperate instead.

“No, Jacky, you’ve shrunk.”

I stared up at him in dismay.  It was true.  I was now nothing more than a pile of roots and a small section of trunk.  The old tree saw my misery and then said, “You should be grateful to be alive.  That fire did some serious damage to you, but still, you survived.  And anyway, now I get to see you grow up all over again!!”

© Lucinda Cubbard 2011

Alone

She sits in the dark

and starts to cry

and doesn’t let

herself

wonder why

if people knew

they didn’t do

but turned their

backs,

and now

everything turns

to black.

The Awakening

This is unedited and incomplete.

I don’t know why you bother with all this shit, you know.  You’ll never amount to anything anyway.”

Mandy glared at her father as he walked away from her.  He was always saying stuff like this, always tell her how useless she was and how she was good-for-nothing, and would never do anything with her life.  She had learnt that reacting in any way to his assertions would result in a pounding that would have her trying to hide bruises for the next two weeks.  Of course, not hiding the bruises well enough, and raising the suspicions of neighbours or teachers would result in another belting in order to teach her a lesson.

Most of the time Mandy accepted what her father told her, and assumed that he was speaking the truth, but for some reason, she was now finding this harder to do.  It was also becoming more difficult to lay still and quiet on the nights that he came to her bed…

The Past and Present

Dear Quondam,

There are some things I need to say to you.  Words I should have said a long time ago, but never had the courage to say.  Things that have lain between us for nearly twenty years, left unsaid and festering.  Now the scab has been removed from the wound in my heart, and it is time to clean out the mess, including what has been left by these unspoken words.

I think you now know that our time together was doomed from the start.  Right from the very beginning, in fact years before we met, our future had been destroyed by the things that had been taken by force from me as a child, by someone who was meant to protect me.  I was not whole, even at our first meeting, so our feelings for each other never had a hope of blossoming into anything more than nameless, shapeless forms that were destined to remain unidentified and unexplored.

Oh, we tried to make things work, I know that, but neither of us had the knowledge, experience or skills to understand that our problems were not really ours.  The problems that we had, well ninety-nine percent of them anyway, were rooted in all the secrets I carried with me.  In all the fears I tried to keep buried, all the nightmares I never told you about, and my constant expectation that the world would end without warning if you became to close to me emotionally.

Thanks to our ignorance, when we parted I did not feel the slightest twinge of sadness and regret.  To be honest, I didn’t feel anything, not even indifference.  I just carried on and tackled the challenges that came my way to the best of my abilities.  I never regretted or begrudged our time together, but I didn’t dwell on our past or fantasise about a reunion either.

Almost two decades later I am feeling somewhat overwhelmed and confused.  All the feelings that I never identified or acknowledged are now pouring out of my inner core.  With each conversation that we have, I am not only flooded with memories, but with the unacknowledged feelings that go with them.  Did I really feel all of this at the time?  Or am I now creating fantasies of what should have been?

It is hard to know if these feelings were there in the past or not.  I would like to think that they were.  It would be nice to think that the unconscious parts of ourselves did know that we truly cared for each other, even if our conscious minds didn’t care less.

When I talk to you now, I feel like you know who I really am.  I feel as though I can tell you anything and you will not judge me, nor will you feel any differently about me after listening to what I have to say. I feel as though I can turn to you when the chips are down and that you will be there to pick me up.  I feel as though we are connected on a soul level, and that no matter what we do, that connection will only ever get stronger not weaker.  I feel like we have wasted too many years not speaking, not caring, and not listening.  I feel tempted to make up for lost time.

On the other hand, I know that things will never change.  We will never be anything more than what we are right now – but there isn’t a name for whatever we are.  We’re not lovers, but we have been.  We’re not friends, but we could have been.  We’re not family, but we should have been.

I will never recover the things that were stolen from me, I know that now, but I am learning that I can live without them.  I wish I had learnt it sooner, so that we could have benefited from an amazing opportunity to build a life together.

The final thing I want to say right now is “Thank You”, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

Yours in memory,

Au Courant

They Told Me To Write

This is all I have written in the last 24 hours.  It’s not much, but it is at least something.  This piece is not finished, and as always, it is unedited.

They told me to write, so I did.  That’s how I came to be here, sitting on Death Row, waiting for them to take my life.

I can almost see you scratching your head, wondering how on earth the simple act of writing could lead to Death Row.  There’s probably a dozen different scenarios running through your mind right now, but I’ll bet you ten quid that none of them are as far-fetched as the truth.

It all started twenty years ago.  I was a witness in a trial and I had to speak the truth about my past.  Half-way through my cross-examination, my voice faltered at first, and then died completely.  I became mute, trapped inside my body, alone with my thoughts, and unable to communicate without the aid of the written word…….