A Month of Creative Writing

Challenge Yourself to a Month of Creative Writing

Throughout this month I have shared ideas to combat writer’s block, practice techniques and my own efforts to get back into writing. For the first time I have openly shared some of my own work and have grown in confidence as a result. I was really terrified about posting up my first ever poem but since then have been going through my back catalogue, editing and developing older works. It is now time for me to get back into writing so for March I am hoping to put some of the techniques I have banded about into practice.

I have challenged myself to a month of creative writing.

In With the New

Blogging has done what I hoped it would and kick started some of my old creativity. I used to be writing all the time but when my mental health began to decline it slowly grounded to a halt. When I was at school, poetry gave me a way to express my negativity. The pain of my father’s illness, of teenage romances and the rage of hormones flowed out of me and on to the page. Some of the results were very poor, violent and messy but some are poems that I am quite pleased with such as Hunters, Grief, and Listen to the Bees.

I can’t pin point when I stopped writing, but I am confident in saying that Love Letter was my last good piece of work. No longer writing reflects how insular I had become, no longer expressing my feelings resulted in them accumulating, eventually leading to the disintegration of my mental health. Blogging has been part of putting myself back together.

I have found a renewed energy this month. I has made me realise that during the past 2 years there has been very little stamina to my enthusiasm. Now, however, I have a spring in my step, a refreshed spirit and a string of ideas.

Finale

With this rediscovery of enthusiasm I wanted to wave goodbye to February with one final piece of old writing. Once again it is something I did when I was at school and is another exercise that I wanted to share that I think might be a way of either easing oneself back into writing or overcoming writer’s block.

Just as in that previous post, this is a piece of work inspired from the work of another author. This is why I am only sharing these pieces as a suggestion of getting into writing, great care should always be taken when gaining inspiration from the work of others to avoid plagiarism.

At A Level, following on from War Poetry we studied Love Through the Ages. One of our texts was William Shakespeare’s Othello. Our assignment was to write a soliloquy in the style of the villain Iago. For anyone unfamiliar with the play and its characters I have included some notes from the Oxford School Shakespeare text:

Othello: The Moor: a black African prince living in a European, colour-prejudiced, society where he holds high rank in the Venetian military forces.

Iago: Othello’s ensign (standard-bearer): a Venetian and a professional soldier, he conceals his real nature under an appearance of ‘honesty’.’

The text below forms part of Iago’s soliloquy from Act 1 Scene 1, lines 145-159:

Farewell, for I must leave you
It seems not meet, nor wholesome to my place
To be produc’d, as if I stay I shall,
Against the Moor. For I do know the state….

Though I do hate him as I do hell’s pains,
Yet, for necessity of present life,
I must show out a flag and sign of love…

The crux of the matter is that Iago hates Othello and sets about sabotaging his relationship with his wife Desdemona. He plants seeds of jealousy, making Othello think that his wife is having an affair. To reveal anymore would be spoilers.

The piece I am posting today was part of a school assignment to write our own soliloquy for the character Iago. As such it uses the same archaic language as Shakespeare and is not intended to be disrespectful.

How I abhor the ancient
Who does me many an injustice;
Old Oak of Moorish association,
Standing erect above all forest dwellers.
Your towering majesty holds all else in shade.
I shall embed an ivy in your roots
That will feast upon your succulent sap.

Ivy! Entwine around Oak in lustful embrace,
Slide between his bark and poison his core.
Choked shall he be from heat and mist-
Throttled in your charming snare.
Slow and gentle be
Like a breath of sweet fresh air-
He will not detect the sourness beneath.

Sun and Moon shall dance their courtship.
Summer shall slide away.
He shall lose his darling season
To a more gallant, virtuous suit.

Infested with louse and worm
That scuttle in his bough and quench
their appetite upon his wounded pride –
He shall be green!

He shall spew his leaves as the Cobra spits his venom.
They will fall in a cascade of red and purple.
He shall lose faith in his Golden Sun,
As he turns black and festers-
His acorns wither
And fall
Upon the fiery earth below.

 

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Writer’s Block

I was part of a creative writing club at school and every Tuesday lunchtime we would gather around the tables in the library, write for twenty minutes or so and then share what we had written before heading back to lessons. The English teacher who ran the club, along with the lovely librarian, would spend the week devising writing exercises to help us develop our understanding of English Literature. Sometimes these exercises focused in on specific literary devices (such as the Alliteration Writing Exercise I shared recently) or aimed to develop our skills at writing speech, developing characters and using plot devices. Many of these exercises double as resources to combat writer’s block.

One week we were all given a quote and told to use that as our first sentence. It was the first line of John Keats’s poem When I Have Fears That I Shall Cease To Be. As a result of this exercise I wrote my first ever sonnet. I have been reluctant to post it as the rhyme scheme is a little forced and a bit dramatic as a result. As ever, any comments and constructive criticism you can provide would be greatly appreciated. I propose that next time that you have writer’s block, you open a book at a random page and take the first sentence as the start of your new piece. Just make sure that you acknowledge what you have used as your inspiration as I have done here, or that you change the sentence should you ever pursue publication. Plagiarism must be avoided at all costs!

Promise

When I have fears that I shall cease to be
Before I reach the age of twenty-one –
Shame is that time was not increased by three
Years of life together, we achieved – none.
Death has hacked dreams of freedom into dust,
Reduced rivers of Hope to streams of mud,
Yet, Sweetheart, press upon you this I must:
For one more kiss I’d sacrifice all blood –
I would endure the agony again,
Treasure each second of waiting. I’d savour
Broken hearts for this eventual gain.
I only regret that we had not told her;
Having made my choice – I make it anew:
That I shall be, eternally, with you.

The Only Thing We Learn From History, Is That We Do Not Learn From History

The quote from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel reads: ‘We learn from history that we learn nothing from history’. I first encountered this quote during Sixth Form when I had the privileged opportunity to be part of the Lessons From Auschwitz project. The poem I am posting today came out of participating in the project and the reflective questions I asked (and haven’t stopped asking) as a student of history and archaeology.

Historian

Historian,
Do you ever think?
Stop and take the time to wonder
About all those people
You reduce to textbook figures?
Put yourself in their shoes
Worn through by the ‘Trail of Tears’
The ‘Long March’
Until Death passes them on.

What can it be
To take your wife and children
And hide for 2 years in an attic?
A small space in the house of spiders
Is of little comfort even to butterflies.
The ‘Great Leap Forward’
4 million Tibetans dead
But we fail to look at the individual,
The demographic population –
Instead all heaped together
In piles of politics.

Focusing on little time capsule bubbles:
American policy in the Cold War,
Allied actions in the Second World War,
The Western Front.
We fail to look at the bigger picture
The other side of the story –
How the world lives together.
The fear of Stalin, Hitler, Chairman Mao
Being power-driven and hungry for land
Are not valid reasons for so much destruction.
Stop looking through a clouded lens
At Allies vs Nazis
Green vs grey
West vs East –
See instead the men, women, children.
80, 50, 30, 20, 10, 5 years of age
Blues eyes, green, brown, grey.
They were the same – we are the same
Although we may speak with different tongues.

Look instead through the glasses piled in cabinets
At Auschwitz- Birkenau –
Broken and bent,
Creating one big body of wire.
6 million Jews
Lead to abattoirs like cattle –
Have we learnt history?
Tell me historian,
Have we learnt?

First Efforts

What a great way to start a Monday! Logging into my Facebook this morning a quote came up on my newsfeed from Anne Lamott: ‘Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts‘.

When you have just sat down at your computer to start a hopeful day of writing, this is an empowering thing to read. It doesn’t matter if you have an idea that you feel confident about, the bare bones of a concept or whether you have no idea how your piece is going to begin or end. The important thing is that you have sat down to write something. That’s the other half of the quote: ‘You have to start somewhere‘.

One of my posts last week was about free writing, a great place to start if you have sat down with the intention to write and suddenly your mind has gone blank. It’s all about getting the ideas in your head into words, then getting those words out of your head on to the page. That’s why free writing with old fashioned pen and paper is still my favourite. I really feel connected to what I am writing then, and I have a mental image of the words flowing from my brain, down my arm, through my hand and on to the page.

Reading this quote this morning got me thinking about where I came from as a writer and storyteller. Like a lot of creative folk I started when I was very young. I was fortunate to have one of those grandfathers who would sit you on his knee and tell you stories. He set my friends and I in the centre of traditional fairy tales and suddenly we were the heroes of our own stories. I’m surprised that I never thought about were my interest in storytelling came from until now.  For as long as I can remember, and for as long as I have been able to write, I have been scribbling short stories. I  added illustrations too, but I was (and still am) a terrible artist. So I started writing long pieces of description, I suppose hoping that the words would paint the picture as I was persistently unable to do so myself.

I really came across poetry quite by accident. Of course I knew lots of nursery rhymes and made up a few myself, but they lacked any form, style or structure. Another girl in the village were I grew up went to a primary school near mine and our parents would car share. One day we were discussing our various homework assignments and my friend had been told to write a limerick for her history class. She wrote one on Anne Boleyn (it was very good) and I decided that I wanted to write one too for my history homework on the Second World War. After that I was hooked and most of my future history homework landed on the teacher’s desk with a poem attached.

I thought in light of the quote I read this morning I would share my terrible first effort. It is about Adolf Hitler, looking at it as an adult understatement does not cover how I described him as a character or the conditions and atrocities of the war as a whole. I hope that you will bare in mind as you read it that I was 9 when I wrote it. But as awful a poem as it is, it is the very first one I wrote and it sparked a love for poetry and writing. Therefore very significant and sentimental to me.

Hitler
Hitler was mean,
Hitler was bad,
He made us very
Shoddily clad.

He marched into Poland,
He marched into France,
He led the whole of Europe
In a merry dance.

The Allies won the war,
The Nazis lost,
50 million lost their lives,
It was a terrible cost.

(Age 9)

 

2nd January

It’s not ideal to be writing about the 2nd of January on the 7th. Fortunately, the delay provides a demonstration of the proceeding content. One of the biggest challenges of this time of year, in addition to the grey and miserable weather, the dark evenings and the pressure for merriment, is New Year Resolutions.

Resolution…

Who hasn’t had ‘January Syndrome’? Starting with high hopes for the New Year, strong motivations and a real determination for change.  Whatever it is, fitness, budgeting or starting a blog, most people have, at some point, woken up on the 1st of January with the notion of ‘today’s the day’!

Reality…

But then, the obstacles begin to appear. If you’d planned to go for a run, may be it’s raining. You meant to go the gym after work, but it’s been a long day, you had to stay late and now you’re too tired. Maybe some unexpected costs put a spanner in the works for your budget. Regardless of what it is, undoubtedly, reasons, complications or excuses (whatever you choose to call them) will crop up. For me, my husband and I visit my family in the south of England every New Year. A mixture of travelling and catching up with friends and family, resulted in some late nights and unpublished blog posts.

Some years you may well have had success with resolutions, but sometimes the slip ups in diets, exercise regimes or other new projects in the early days of January can make it feel like it’s game over. I have some friends who don’t set resolutions for this very reason. Coupled with the bad weather and darker days, for many, New Year’s Resolutions can add extra pressure and have a huge impact on their health. They feel stressed, anxious or depressed.

Make A Change…

This year is different for me, due to a small fact I learnt about Thomas Edison. I gave my mum’s partner one of those ‘On This Day’ calendars for Christmas, and it announced that on the 2nd of January 1879 Thomas Edison began to construct his first generator.

Something more well-known about Edison is that in December, 1914 his factory burnt down. His friends and family were horrified and shocked by the lack of concern that Edison gave – even telling his son to ”Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again”. In a quote from The New York Times he said, “Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.” This quote has been adopted by business professionals as the desired attitude to have when faced with obstacles, but it can also be cited for personal reassurance. Most of us will slip up, make mistakes, miss days. We are human and we do our best. It is ok to ‘start all over again tomorrow’, as long as we do actually start tomorrow!  

So, despite setting myself the task of writing a blog post every day, missing four days has not sent me into a tail spin of feeling like a failure (and I can assure you that a few months ago it would have).

Interesting Edison recourses I encountered:
http://www.businessinsider.com/thomas-edison-in-the-obstacle-is-the-way-2014-5?IR=T
http://edison.rutgers.edu/digital.htm