Catching Happiness

Patter patter patter
Patter patter patter
Pounce!

Tail wagging, lips
Pulled back
Like a
big smile,

My dog has chased, flicked and
Found
Her ball. 

She reminds me of the importance
Of being pleased
With the simplest actions

Of how
Happiness can be so easy
To find
If only we stop looking so far away.

Happiness is right here.

In this muddy field,
She knows it.
She found it.
She caught it.

Lassie does a form of victory lap every time she catches her ball. She almost never brings it straight back, she always does a small semi-circular run first. She chases the ball, picks it up and loops back to me to repeat the action all over again.

I like the repetition. I think it is good for me.

I am taking time away from my computer screen, from reading and words, from work, and playing with a creature who is full of the purest joy.

It is routine.
It is simple.
I am focused on one task.

For someone who struggles with clearing her mind and disentangling her thoughts from her worries, to be able to focus on just throwing a ball for half an hour is very calming.
My mind is free and unharassed thoughts lead to creativity.
I have written a poem, a post, out here in the open air.

This is my hobby.
This is my happiness.
My dog has led me here.

If I stop trying to move beyond this moment and instead enjoy being in it, I can catch my own happiness.

Stop.
Walk.
Wonder.
Breathe.

Pause long enough for happiness to catch up with you.

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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.

 

Morning has Broken

It is so rare for my husband and I to have a day off together. He works all week long in the lab at the university completing his PhD and for the past 6 months I have worked every weekend. The only time off we have had together has been when we are visiting family and whilst we are all very close, its not exactly quality couple time. But recently my timetable changed so I am now only working alternate Saturdays. We have a day off that coincides.

I mentioned how one of my reasons for starting a blog was to have a space for reflection that could document significant events and feelings but was not as personal or emotional as a diary or journal. But I did start writing in a jotter on our last day off and I haven’t felt so contented for so long. I have been happy during the last few years. I’ve not been depressed, suicidal and miserable the whole way through but the general upward trend in positive outlook has been quite recent. I really wanted to document this moment so I thought I would share it… online… which still doesn’t feel completely usual yet… despite how much I seem to be doing it now…

Typically, I have flu to mark the occasion of our shared day off, but even feeling disgusting can’t spoil this morning. 

I always wake up earlier than my husband. I have never encountered someone worse at mornings than Samuel. After giving him a snuggle, I got up to let the dog out into the garden and then we headed back upstairs. Samuel had his head under the covers so I was able to open the bedroom curtains without the sunlight disturbing him.

My intention was to read, but looking out of windows and daydreaming has always been one of my favourite past times and so I thought I would write down what I was feeling in that moment.

As it is early in the morning on a weekend there are very few cars or people about. The air is still, no breeze, no movement. Despite the spring sunshine it is still bitterly cold outside.

This is rather typical of Scotland. There is a week of extra daylight, sunshine, flowers and a slight temperature rise commonly followed by bad weather and snow…

The birds are chirruping to one another and as the new spring leaves are only just starting to bud, I can see them hopping about in the branches of the hedge below the window. It feels like the first time this year that it has been this light this early in the morning, but it might well be the first time that I have been still enough to notice. 

Our bedroom window is south-facing and I can watch the sunlight get brighter as I sit and write in my notebook this morning. 

A few doors down our neighbour has a holly tree shaped into a sphere and it means I can always glimpse life growing outside our window. 

Even though I am full of flu, I know that the air will smell of damp earth, sweetened by the sugar of fresh spring grass. It is the smell that, for the last few days, my dog has carried into the house on her paws. 

My husband is lying beside me,  not quite awake, nor fully asleep. Although strictly speaking she shouldn’t be up here, the dog has crept her way onto the bed and is nestled under his outstretched arm. She’s snoring softly and twitching in her sleep as she dreams. 

It’s the mornings we dreamt of when we lived in our pokey city flat. The double bed took up almost the entire bedroom (we couldn’t fully open the wardrobe doors) and only one person at a time could fit in the kitchen. Our bathroom was so small that my brother-in-law could only just get through the door.

But here we are. 

In our new home, with the sounds of the countryside all around us. With the sun warming a new season and shining on all the new life it brings with it. This lie in is renewal for us as well, as a family. It’s a time when as individuals we have the chance to refresh, recharge and reconnect with each other. On Sundays we have the chance from spiritual renewal at church. The week can be very fraught. We haven’t spent much quality time together recently, but today is new and fresh. 

Why Does the Ice Cream Van Drive at Night?

Well I said I would give free writing a go. It’s been long time since I have tried this prewriting technique. It was fun although I’m not sure how I feel about the outcome. What I have actually done here is termed focused free writing. It is as liberated as free writing but is based on a specific topic rather than seeing where your thoughts take you.

Last night I really did let the dog out into the garden, hear an ice cream van and decide for to focus on a question that has puzzled me for a very long time.  I must confess though to still not having an answer.

Why does the ice cream van drive around at night?
The air is cold and draughty,
The wind pinches with frost
It blows the promise of snow from the sea.
I open the door and let
The dog out into the garden.

It is cold and icy outside
The spring flowers are quivering
Snow is expected any day now
But the sound of Greensleeves
Comes gliding over the fence.
Why does the ice cream van drive around at night?

It’s dark outside
The lights are on
The children are in bed
There’s no one around to buy ice cream
They’re indoors with hot chocolate instead.

Greensleeves slides around the neighbourhood
Past the garden, round the back
Leaves rustle, a fox barks
Far away an owl hoots.
Why does the ice cream van drive around at night? 

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.

Free Writing

Today I read a post by Sara in LaLaLand about free writing, and it reminded me about a poem I wrote at my writing club at school. I’ve mentioned before that how I write blog posts is very similar to free writing, but I pay too much attention to what I am typing and have a very specific topic in mind. Whilst I let the post go wherever my mind takes it, its still bound within the topic and I am very conscious of spelling, punctuation and grammar. Free writing is incredibly liberating as you focus on the words and your thoughts and feelings and let them flow, unbound by language rules and you can skip from topic to topic and back again. I wonder if it could be comparable to meditation, in the book I am reading, Women, Food and God, Geneen Roch details a technique that focuses on feelings within the body and free writing focuses on what your mind is producing. You aren’t editing as you go, or dismissing thoughts as tangents or irrelevant. Everything that pops into your head ends up on the page. Then, when you let the writing overtake, you frequently forget about the sentence, or even word, that came before what you are currently writing. Just like meditation, you are only aware and concerned with what is happening now, in that very moment, without consideration to what came before or what might happen next. You’re not concerned with whether it is sensible or makes sense to anyone else. Thus, free writing is not only a great pre-writing technique, especially if you have writer’s block, but it also has great benefits for mental health. Free writing enables you to access your unconscious, to release emotions, process thoughts and feelings, and relieve stress.

I hope to do some free writing over the next few days. In the past I have used it as a technique for writing poetry, but I am interested to experiment with prose and see if it can get me kick-started on my novel writing project. For now, I hope you will enjoy the poem I wrote whilst gazing out of the classroom window, wondering what on earth I was going to free write about. In this regard it is like the exact opposite of meditation. With meditation the stereotype is emptying the mind, with free writing you are waiting for a thought to scuttle across your brain so that you have something to write about. On the occasions I have tried meditation my mind suddenly recieved a whole deluge of ideas, when I am free writing it suddenly becomes astoundingly blank…

That Leaf

That leaf.
That brown dry leaf.
Swinging like a crazy pendulum.

It dangles there
On slender stem
Brown and dry.

Dew drops still hang from
The droopy foliage,
Slimy even at midday.

They drip the seconds by,
A constant ticking
The time it takes for the last leaf to die.

Alliteration Writing Exercise

I really love alliteration, it’s one of my favourite techniques. I thought I’d post up a poem I wrote at school in English class, the purpose being to use as much alliteration as possible…

Alliterative Accountancies

Red sun setting on summer fields,
The green grass hiding in the gloom,
An old orange oak tree,
Standing staring at the stars.

The falls flowing far away
Dashing down the dales
Searching soundly for the sea,
To where it may run free
And need return no more.

A couple walking in the moonlight,
Why wake at this late hour?
Daisies droop their drowsy heads,
As do all summer’s flower.

Soon they stop their delicate dancing,
And lean against the old oak tree,
There they lie in each other’s arms
And silently slide asleep.