A tentative blog to test the temperature.
Ten years ago I was writing several blogs on various subjects - F1 motor racing, Music, Classic Cars, Great Romances and, most crushingly, a personal journal that included my thoughts on America, memories of England and Africa, opinion, humour, writing and anything else that occurred. It all became too much (I was attempting to update the journal every day) and I collapsed, exhausted and thoroughly disillusioned in the end.|
So this blog is indeed a Toe in the Water, a place to document my thoughts in and on WdC but with a determination not to get sucked into the blog whirlpool ever again. Here's hoping.
I enter a lot of contests. There is a horde of reasons for that, including the need to gather enough gift points to extend my membership level for a few more months, the awareness that I respond better to orders from outside rather than from myself, (the dreadful Oxford comma, against which I am trained to revolt but have recently decided is probably more accurate, since we do actually pause before announcing the last item in a list) and the expansion of horizons into areas I would not otherwise enter.
This has led me to a number of observations about contests. For instance, it has become increasingly noticeable that longstanding members rarely enter contests. Inspection of their portfolios reveals that much of their output is the result of entering contests in the past but, generally, this fades in time and now they either run contests or don’t bother with them at all.
No doubt there are many reasons for this. Most importantly, I think the pointlessness of constant contest entering becomes apparent to them. As long as we write for contests, we are distracted from what, for most of us, should be the main intent: the creation of the great American (or British or Outer Mongolian or whatever) novel. The passing years dictate that, should we retain the ambition for eventual publication, the amusing diversion of contests must be put aside and more serious business knuckled down to.
So I imagine that all those elder WDC statesmen and women are either slaving away at their magnum opuses or, having given up, are keeping up their membership as merely an occasional entertainment.
Which serves to highlight the amazing freedom that those few, like me, who do not entertain dreams of fame and fortune through publication, enjoy. We are free to annoy contests owners with the problem of what on earth to do with yet another entry from us until the day we die. It’s a problem because of course we learn a bit from all our contest entering and it’s hardly fair on the poor newbies who comprise the main fodder of so many contests. The irony being that, by the time they have learned enough to be a serious threat to the old hands, they are already noticing how the contests are drawing them away from their primary intent.
The point is really that the contests are immensely important to WDC. They are the arena in which new writers can hone their skills and become true gladiators of the written word. The natural trend is that they come, they learn and they depart for greater challenges. The best move on to astound the world with their talents, the worst get fed up and wander off to make something else of themselves (the wisest, anyway). What a fine sieve to sort the wheat from the chaff!
Except that there’s me and my few compadres to spoil the fun. Almost makes me happy to be alive!
Word count: 495
|A Prompt Response
What is this recent outbreak of contests demanding that we invent our own prompts? It seems decidedly irrational to me. Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone else, but the reason I go hunting for prompts is because I’m low on inspiration and require just a little input from elsewhere to get the old engine fired up on a cold and inhospitable Monday morning. Or any other morning, when you’re as old as I am.
So to ask that I first devise a prompt before writing to it is like offering stone soup to a starving beggar. Or maybe I just think that because I’m lousy at making up prompts.
Word count: 109
One thing about being with a bunch of other writers, the subject keeps turning to what you’re reading or intend to in the week, month or year. Which gives me a problem since I’m completely out of the habit of reading books. That is partly because I can no longer just visit a bookshop when I feel like it (or any kind of shop for that matter) and because I have eyesight problems which mean I need a lot of light to read anything with print as small as a book has.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t read anymore. I can’t help it, I read all the time. As I’ve pointed out before, I’m like everyone else and can’t stop myself reading whatever is placed before me, be it product packaging, junk literature from the mailbox or any other of the constant bombardment of printed material we deal with every day. Add to that what I read on the computer screen (which has its own backlighting and solves the vision problem, therefore) and the only time I’m not reading is when I’m writing.
Even then, I’m constantly reading what I’ve written, to catch typos and the like.
I can’t help but feel that reading books is something you do when you’re young. By the time your eyesight begins to fade, you’ve probably read most of the stuff that’s going to have an influence on you, anyway. It’s not just arteries that harden as we get older; attitudes do, too.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we all become rigid and inflexible in old age. A lot depends on how wide open to change was the door in the first place. Some of us start off with it only just ajar and, naturally, when it starts closing, it’s not long before we’ve shut out most of the light. But others have it wide open from the first and that takes a lot longer to close. It’s a matter of degree, just like everything else. And the general principle is true: it becomes harder to change the older we get.
That is actually how it should be. When we’re young and absorbing everything in sight, writing books is inappropriate at least. Very few people can write that much without changing their minds six times during the writing. The young should be out there, experiencing all that the world has to teach, not hidden away in garrets, scribbling out thoughts that will be different next week.
Writing is for the old, when the alternatives have been tried and inspected and the mind is pretty well made up. It’s the time of life when the energy to go racing about has been used up and all that is left is what used to be called wisdom. So, as long as we’re sitting down, recovering our breath, we might as well write it all down.
And my answer to the question becomes, “I’m not reading - I’m writing!”
Word count: 495
|My Unconscious Assistant
A while back, I wrote about the effect of the unconscious mind on our writing. It’s always present, whether we can discern its influence by later dissection or not, but I seem to be currently on a quest to encourage its influence on my writing. This involves handing over the reins to an ever-increasing extent. The results are sometimes surprising, sometimes disappointing.
Generally, I find that the unconscious is good at sparking off a story, providing the initial impulse through a phrase or sentence from nowhere, or a picture or feeling that haunts and won’t let go. It’s not so good at providing satisfying endings. Too often, it leaves me, somewhat exhausted by the dance it has led me, with an interesting tale but no hint of how to bring it to a conclusion.
I suppose this is in the nature of the unconscious, since it doesn’t accept an ending to any story and continues to hold on to and develop whatever it fancies at the time. And this is where we have to step in and take charge again. Who wants to re-write Ulysses, after all (the James Joyce novel, not Homer’s less boring effort)?
It also means that I have a growing collection of stories with considerable potential but hastily cobbled together endings. If I can crack the problem of kicking the mind into action when it’s been playing in the fields all day, I might be able to produce some reasonably decent stuff.
Word count: 246