I can’t remember a year when the arrival of September has coincided so exactly with the arrival of autumnal days. Over the course of the weekend, the temperature here has suddenly dropped from highs of 30℃ to 20℃ and the sun that was scorching on the last day of August seems merely warm and pleasant now that September is here.
I am settling bit by bit into my new work role and letting my routines unfurl themselves in their own time to fit around the new schedule.
I unpicked the socks I was knitting and now I have nothing on the needles. Nothing has grabbed my attention and there are no pressing gaps in my wardrobe that need to be filled. The ice-cream pink jumper will still probably be my next garment, although I don’t know when I will start knitting it; when the mood takes me is my best estimate. I have an idea that I should knit a warm hat for my Helsinki trip next February, but I’m not sure.
It is definitely time to be getting back into a writing routine, not only for my blog posts, but also back to working on my novel. I had a very interesting conversation with a gentleman I met today who is also working on a novel, and it was inspiring in a quiet, comfortable way. It started when he brought out not only his 2019 diary, but also his 2020 diary which he was already carrying around with him – a very impressive action. In fact, if I had not been working at the time, I would have been very interested to delve into his “everyday carry” bag to see exactly what he was toting around; rather like a fully interactive, real-life YouTube video.
All in all, though tangible progress is rather hard to see, when I refer back to my Word of the Year (Establish), I think I am moving in the right direction.
This is my word of the week; it’s plain and simple; it doesn’t have multiple applications; there is no need for interpretation; it just means what it means; you don’t have to write for ages to describe how and where to use it.
There is one simple reason to explain why I came up with this as my word of the week: I have finally introduced a new character into the first draft of my novel and now my main protagonist has someone to talk to. The first few chapters have been very short on dialogue (I’ll have to have to fix that later) and that has suited me because generally I enjoy writing great swathes of description about inner thoughts and feelings, postponing action and dialogue for as long as possible. However, I experienced a palpable sense of relief last night when I could finally write a whole bit where two people were talking to one another.
They talked about sausages, probably because I was coming down with a cold and when I have a cold I just want to eat and eat and eat. Clearly food is on my mind even when I am supposedly hard at work practising my craft. In fact, now I come to think of it, there are a lot of biscuits so far in this novel. Hmmm, don’t write and diet?
I hope you have a loquacious week and remember: if no-one is listening to you it is the universe’s way of telling you that you are not talking quite enough!
Today being the first Saturday in the month, I went off to Norwich Castle Museum to my writing class. I thought before I set off that it might be fun to take a photo showing what I pack in my bag when I’m off to class, so here it is.
Bag: Knomo “Antwerp” cross-body bag
Contents from top left moving clockwise:
Woollen fingerless mitts — similar available from my Etsy shop
House and bicycle keys on lanyard
Wool felt beret
Cath Kidston small leather purse
Wizzard little tool for repairing glasses
Mark and Fold A6 stitched notebook printed up with monthly diary
Mark and Fold A5 linen-cover stitched notebook
Cath Kidston glasses case
Pappersbruk top-bound spiral notepad
DIY tinted lipbalm
Waterman Hemisphere fountain pen in Rose Cuivre finish
Swizzels Parma Violet sweets
Avon Encanto hand cream
Envelope containing Waterstones gift cards
In our class today we studied objects in the current exhibition Viking: Rediscover the Legend. By the end of the class I had written the following poem,
This supple leather had, in previous days, Cradled the calloused foot of Ivar’s father As he traveled the familiar paths of a city Many miles, many years, from home. Each morning Ivar watched as the shoe Was drawn with barely audible creaks Onto the foot it had sworn to protect, And the bone of a long-dead sheep Passed through a loop of hide To join foot and shoe in solemn matrimony. It went thus each day, until one day Foot and shoe did not return And Ivar, in his grief, Walked the path in his father’s stead.
I have to say I am loving my monthly get-together with other local writers and the chance to focus on things that I wouldn’t perhaps be drawn to on my own.
Looking forwards as we start a new week and a new month, my chosen Word of the Week “Accomplish” is an exhortation to set goals and strive to achieve something. To set oneself a challenge, to determine a course. It is wise, in setting goals, to accept that we can still accomplish something even if we do not ultimately reach our target. Sometimes it is enough that we accomplish the understanding that a certain thing is not for us, we do not find it important enough within our life, we do not enjoy it as much as we thought we would, or even that this is simply not the time for us to get the best value from that particular activity.
As well as looking forward, we can apply this word to the month just past, using “accomplish” to celebrate what we have done.
I set myself the challenge for March 2019 to do some creative writing every single day and I am proud with myself for meeting this challenge. It took a slightly different direction from the one I originally envisaged, and in the final analysis I wrote for 25 days on the first draft of my novel, adding 16,730 words to it which averages out to 669 per day. That is amazing progress. Now, not all of those words were freshly-minted during the month because I took some pieces that I had written previously and imported them into my novel. That was part of the evolution of the novel which has become more solid and cohesive in my mind as I have been working on it daily. That being said, it is still a successful contribution given the original context of my challenge: “to work on the creative writing”, not to write a set number of new words in the time period.
I also worked on other pieces over 8 days, adding 16,870 words. Now this was definitely more a case of importing and typing up pieces written previously. However, it means that I now have most of my creative writing within the Scrivener software on my computer, making it much more accessible and seamless to work with.
The big thing to come out of this month for me is that I am loving writing, really engrossed with the story I am crafting, and I am going to make the effort to carry on writing every day even though March is now over.
Do you set yourself goals/challenges/targets? How do you feel if you achieve, or fail to achieve them?
I’ve been working hard on my knitting through the week and I am getting very close to completing the knitting part.
I am very pleased with how this is looking. I plan to finish it with a simple crochet neckband and armbands to neaten up the edges. I still love the cream wool and I can imagine it knit up as a cricket jumper, the kind I wanted pretty much all through the 1980s. It would also be ideal for some of Marion Foales’ old 1980s patterns.
I thought I was having a day of procrastination yesterday as I spent far too much time sorting out old files on my computer’s external hard drive. Mainly it involved getting rid of innumerable duplicates/triplicates/infini-plicates! It was only when I sat down to do my creative writing later on in the evening that I realised how useful some of those unearthed items were. I came across some old snippets of writing from 2006 and the style I had used to write them entirely suited a couple of the characters in my novel.
Back in 2006 I wrote the following:
But you know these observations about these things I own and how I use them, they are all part of the back-story of me and when I create characters I need them to have this kind of back-story. Understanding how a person interacts with their possessions is incredibly useful for a writer. Or for one who is simply interested in human character.
Well, there I was, thirteen years later, using those observations to provide the back-story for a character in my novel. Now if that isn’t prescient, then I don’t know what is!
Have you had any experience of a thing that has taken a long time to reach fruition? I’d love to hear.
I remember my mum planting a rowan tree in our garden when I was a young girl and all the years when she watched it fail to put forth any kind of perceptible growth. I recall how it suddenly spurted with life the year she decided it was going to be dug up and scrapped if it didn’t make an effort before the autumn. Things can be like that.
The days are most definitely getting longer here in Norfolk and we are having our fair share of bright days, although accompanied by most cyclists’ least favourite conditions – wet and windy. All in all it is behaving pretty much exactly as you’d expect for a British March. It is the weather that makes me homesick for York, although I have never lived there, only visited.
Having wrapped up InCoWriMo (International Correspondence Writing Month) at the end of February, I set myself the challenge of working on my creative writing every day during March. I am happy to report that, like my knitting, I am very happy with the progress I am making.
To start the month, I intended to take part in a 21-day writing challenge by Write Your Journey. It seemed to me a great idea to receive a writing prompt each day so I could flex my creative writing muscles, but this turned out to be the wrong challenge for me. I should probably have investigated the website more fully before signing up for the prompts, as I would have realised that it was geared towards meditating and exploring yourself rather than about writing stories. I completed the first few days, but I began to struggle when I got to the one that required me to listen to a guided meditation accompanied by a meditation bowl prior to starting to write. This isn’t my taste, although I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried it and enjoyed it or found it helpful. Writing in my journal provides me with as much navel-gazing as I require on a daily basis, and if I’m facing anything particularly thorny I tend to turn to the I Ching which I use as a random way to explore problems from new viewpoints.
When I got to this point in the challenge I decided to abandon it and work on more fictional items. Then, if I was going to be writing fiction, why spend the month writing short pieces each day based on prompts at all? Enter (actually, re-enter) my novel.
I started writing my novel in May 2018, got over the 10,000 word-mark of my first draft then life went a bit kablooey and I didn’t look at it again until the end of February. When I talk about my novel, I tend to do so in a self-deprecating way: I say it wryly, I put inverted commas around it and I don’t acknowledge to many other people that it is, in fact, supposed to be a proper novel and that I am writing it. I feel that it seems presumptuous of me to write a novel whereas writing little stories is perfectly okay. Even in my writing group, we all say we write short stories, none of us admit we are working on a novel. Perhaps I am the only one; perhaps we all are, but we aren’t ready to say so.
Earlier this year, with the novel resting, I wrote some scraps of a story that has been fizzing around in my head like balls in a pinball game and that is entirely for my own consumption. When I decided to go back and work on my novel, I re-read some of my earlier character descriptions and it hit me that my little personal story, if tweaked, would make an excellent tale of what happened in the youth of one of the characters and how she had led the rest of her life in the reflected glory of it. So my first action was to import that text into my novel and I have been rewriting it to suit my character for the past few days. To say this has been enjoyable is an understatement. I have loved it and why not? I always love writing.
I currently do my creative writing on my MacBook laptop computer using a writing application called Scrivener by Literature and Latte. This is an all-singing, all-dancing piece of software and I am willing to admit that I find it very complex, not to mention intimidating. Actually, since buying it last year I have often just used Apple’s built-in word processor, Pages, for creative writing because my needs don’t justify Scrivener’s complexity. However, I do like to use it and, as with any software, you can use it to any level of expertise you choose so it is in this software that my novel resides. The way I see it, a solid month of working on my novel in Scrivener will be part of the learning process, not just an exercise in creative writing.
There are, of course, a number of writing packages out there for the Mac user including Ulysses, which often wins ‘top app’ awards in the media and IA Writer, another very popular choice. Ulysses and IA Writer both hang their hats on providing a simple, distraction-free interface for writing, Scrivener by default has multiple elements open but you can choose to go into a single, clean screen for writing. Personally, I like to have other reference items around the edges. Scrivener and IA Writer are both traditional desktop applications, in that you buy a license and then pay to upgrade when new versions are released. I used Ulysses for a while until they adopted a subscription payment model which I don’t like. I understand it because it provides a predictable income stream and the company can release micro-updates as many times as they like. I’m just old-school when it comes to owning rather than renting my software.
One of the great things about software created specifically for writers is that it usually provides you with easy to reference word counts and you can set goals for the whole work or for a number of words per session. I like that, although every day I am writing away full tilt and suddenly the computer gives out this chime and I almost fall off my chair with shock!
The first draft of the novel now stands at 15,930 words. I wonder if I can hit 20,000 by the end of the month.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little wander into the realm of writerly matters. Are you doing anything a little out of the usual this March?
Last Saturday was my second trip to the Castle Writers’ group at Norwich Castle Museum and this time we covered the topic of landscape and how the setting can act like another character within your writing. This is a concept that I will have to work on because logic dictates that the landscape needs people to react with or, at the very least, a character to observe it. However powerful the elements are, they are only dramatic in terms of the effect they exert on a person or an object which we care about. That’s how it seems to me, but like I say, I need to work on it.
The other thing I am working on at the moment is a sleeveless pullover, a transitional piece to extend the life of winter dresses and blouses into the spring weather. Here it is so far:-
I am absolutely loving working in my favourite Shetland yarn (J C Rennie Supersoft Shetland) which I am holding as a double-strand to work at approximately DK gauge. I am also enamoured of this particular shade. It is such a good, clotted-cream colour, neutral but uplifting. The lace pattern reminds me of wheatsheaves, thus I am thinking of this garment as Fields of Wheat. It is destined to go into my Etsy shop, worst luck, as part of me wishes I was knitting this for myself. I am knitting a small size, but I intend to make it available in a medium and large as well. The design will feature a v-neck and the back will be in stocking stitch.
I really enjoy knitting a nice, simple lace pattern and this one has proven to be quite easy to get the hang of. It has a 12-row repeat which is just right to do in one sitting, meaning I get a pleasing feeling of progress each time I work on the top. Even so, I am looking forward to getting the front finished because I just love a good expanse of stocking stitch.
I hope you are enjoying your current projects, whatever field they may be in. Do you have a work in progress that is making you smile?
Today is the sixth day of the International Correspondence Writing Month 2019 and I am pleased with my progress to date.
Whilst the aim is to write a letter – or, indeed, any hand-written missive which can be a note, postcard, post-it, so long as it’s written by hand – every day through February, many people taking part will inevitably be fans of pens and papers and so the letters can be quite decorative, or include little gifts. I like to write in my letters about which pen and ink I am using because I love to read this information in the letters I receive. I have some decorative notepaper, quite a bit of it from Kikki K, so I don’t decorate the letters themselves, but I do like to add some fripperies on the envelopes.
Speaking of envelopes, I am addressing the letters this year with my lovely little typewriter. One year I hand-wrote the addresses with fountain pen and ink and then overlaid them with sellotape to provide a waterproof layer; the other year I hand-wrote the envelopes with ballpoint pen. Of the three, the typewriter is the nicest – it still seems like a hand-crafted solution, whilst being neat, legible, and waterproof.
For letters that I am sending abroad, I have a pack of postcards from Norwich Castle Museum. These feature images from the Norwich School of painters, mostly local scenes or still-lives. Many of these hang in the Castle Museum itself as it houses a good art gallery as well as the historical and natural displays.
The little bone-handle pen-knife in my picture above is an item I use for opening letters. To the best of my knowledge, it belonged to my grandparents when they lived in their lovely house in York, and passed along via my mum to me. It is a delicate item, very much for the genteel lady. My dad always carried a pen-knife which my sister now owns. It was mainly used for peeling apples, sharpening pencils, and for tamping down the tobacco in his pipe. I find it sad that the pen-knife is now seen as a weapon rather than a utility item, and is therefore (understandably) frowned-upon.
In other news, yesterday was my birthday and it was very book-orientated. 2019 is definitely going to be a year where I read a lot. I have already determined that I am going to get back into the habit of just browsing in bookshops. It seems to me that I stopped reading a lot at around the time when I stopped browsing in bookshops a lot; I am not sure which one led to the other. However, it does seem to me that when I take the time to simply wander around and look at books, I see all manner of items which catch my eye and I am certain that this can only be of help to me in my desire to read more. My favourite bookshop to browse in was a small independent book store in Norwich called Gliddons which was around until the 1980s. I remember buying my first copies of books by John Fowles, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and F Scott Fitzgerald there, as well as many a sci-fi book from the bookshelves in the basement. Second to that, the big Borders store which opened in Chapelfield in 2005 and sadly departed in 2009, was a favourite. This was a huge book shop for Norwich and I can remember buying many a ‘business’ book there, as well as the first paperbacks I owned of Haruki Murakami novels. The best shops for browsing the books in Norwich now are The Book Hut (independent), Jarrolds (independent, part of local department store) and Waterstones (chain).
Right, I am heading off to clean out a fountain pen then tomorrow I can refill it with a new colour ink, ready for some more letters.
Are you taking part in InCoWriMo this year? Have you done it in previous years? Would you do it in future years? What do you think?
Continuing with my slightly tardy theme, today I’m going to write about the various elements of my weekend.
On Saturday I went to a meeting of the Castle Writers Group at the Castle Museum, Norwich. This is a monthly meet-up that has been going on for many months now, but this is the first month that I have steeled myself and booked to join in. Now I regret not doing it sooner because it was brilliant. We spent two and a half hours exporing character including picking a face to write about – I chose the gentleman in the beret in the photos above; he has really gripped me. I waver between whether he is quite military, or bohemian. Either way, I adore him.
The meeting was quite structured and I really enjoyed the format. It was very much geared towards getting us thinking about a specific element of our creative writing and provided much food for thought and practice before the next meeting.
The desk in the photo montage is on display in the museum and it represents a typical curator’s desk. It is one of the pieces I always go and look at whenever I visit the museum because I find it very inspiring.
In the evening I had a meal at Yo! Sushi with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. It was a really enjoyable meal with good food and good company. The food going round on conveyor belts is guaranteed to entertain young and old alike. When we left the restaurant Norwich was having one of its very few wintery showers. We have only had one real snow shower this winter and even then it didn’t linger, otherwise just a few sharp frosts and a couple of bouts of sleet.
On Sunday morning I sat and finished reading Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, Killing Commendatore, a thoroughly enjoyable read. It is a reasonably long novel at around 680 pages of medium-sized text and I didn’t exactly speed through it, although I did read for longer periods from about halfway through. Murakami’s works are usually told from the point of view of a single character and this is no exception. Our hero is an artist, in the process of divorcing from his wife and settling into a house owned by the father of his friend and agent, Masahiko Amada, after spending the winter on an extended road trip. Masahiko’s father is Tomohiko Amada, a renowned artist who has worked in the Japanese tradition since he returned to Japan just before the second world war. He is suffering from dementia and is living out his final days in a nursing home. Three things happen which combine to catapault our leading man into an increasingly surreal landscape, and which also act as a catalyst for his personal art. He discovers an unknown painting by Tomohiko Amada, he makes the acquaintance of a man who lives on the opposite side of the valley – the strangely charismatic and possibly dangerous Menshiki, and he discovers a pit in the garden of Amada’s house. From these three events, all manner of inexplicable tendrils branch out; some things are resolved by the end of the novel, but by no means all of the questions asked get answered.
I am going to include one quote from the novel, simply because it made me laugh when I read it. It concerns Menshiki, who is a bit of a Gatsby-type figure, and who has cooked our hero an omelette.
The omelette wasn’t just pretty to look at – it was delicious.
“This omelette is perfection,” I said.
Menshiki laughed. “Not really. I’ve made better.”
What sort of omelette could that have been? One that sprouted wings and flew from Tokyo to Osaka in under two hours?
Also on Sunday, I made a batch of Date Slices – shown in my photo prior to cutting. Actually, I could so easily just have left it in one piece and gobbled my way through it, but I really made it for sharing. I love Date Slices and bake them to a recipe from Cranks, the wholefood restaurant.
Of course, Friday 1st February marked the beginning of the International Correspondence Writing Month and so I wrote letters on Saturday and Sunday. So far I have written and posted a letter a day, which is the object of the exercise. I hope this year I can make it through the whole month because last year I failed miserably. In fact, I got so far behind I just gave up.
The thing I didn’t do so much of is knitting, and I do find that if I get immersed in reading something the knitting tends to lag behind, and if I get immersed in my knitting the reading lags. I wonder if I am using the same part of my brain for both, so either ones satisfies the urges?
I hope you had a good weekend, and have been reading, writing, knitting, or doing other things entirely, but all to you own heart’s content.
This week I have been looking through old notebooks; for what is the point of making notes if you don’t go back every so often and read them? Two looming items have prompted this trawl: I need to get a new notebook sorted out because I’m down to the final five pages in the book which I started on 31st March 2018. I plan to move into an A5 exercise book next because I have always had a penchant for this format (we used to know as our “Rough Book” at school). Also, I am going to a creative writing session tomorrow (Norwich Castle Writers at the Castle Museum) and in digging out blank notebooks I inevitably retrieved some half-filled ones with various creative bits and pieces in them.
In one book I had written “Alice Starmore wool” and clearly I had never bothered to go and look at the website, so I did it there and then. This was very inspiring and I am now extremely keen to try out the wool and see how it compares to the traditional Shetland yarns that I have used in the past. After I had read about the wools I looked at the page of knitting kits and that is when the above waistcoat socked me on my weak and feeble jaw, making me go all wobbly about the knees. I love that waistcoat, I want that waistcoat, no, I need that waistcoat. The only question is, do I need it in cream, or do I need it in navy? Well, okay, the question is, do I need it first in cream or navy because clearly I need it in both colours. I also need that skirt…
If you have never looked at the Virtual Yarns website you should stop wasting your time reading this, and go straight there, even if you don’t knit. Just look at the colours. Just feast your eyes on the designs. The other item I am completely entranced by is the Selkie “costume” – that collar with the cabling on the underside and the colourwork on the topside!
I also want to note that this week marked 33 years since the loss of the space shuttle Challenger and seven crew members during launch and, as ever, NASA posted a tribute.
It seems to me that these words from a song written by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion – The Impossible Dream (The Quest) – gain a particular poignancy when thinking of these events.
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.