Archives for posts with tag: the ordinary life of a writer

Can you believe two years have passed since the London Olympics? I was fortunate enough to attend an evening of paralympic events. It feels as though it was only last year that I was sitting in the massive stadium, with an enormous lion emblazoned across my t-shirt and yelling encouragement at the athletes. Clearly, it wasn’t. That moment was in 2012.

This time last year I posted a loose Pindaric ode to a golden mango.

In the spirit of archives – looking at the back catalogue in the present, possibly to inform the future – I encourage you to read this post about progress. Joanna Penn recommends measuring achievement across the span of four years by asking oneself, where was I during the last olympics? Equally, you can plot your goals by projecting, where would I like to be by the next games?

Where will you be in 2016?

In the meantime, I’m still waiting for this summer’s golden mangoes to appear on the local grocers’ tiers.

Find me on Twitter. I’m @BeadedQuill.

SSA40433

Looking Back at Cuttings and Proteas: a log entry about growth and development

Two years and 217 posts ago the BeadedQuill blog was born. On 15th June 2013, after decades of hiding my fiction writing in notebooks, I decided to share it with the wider world. To my 123 signed-up blog followers, I say a thank you. To my 659 Twitter followers and 24 Facebook followers, I also say thank you. I hope you derive some pleasure from my ramblings. To my other readers and supporters, I send appreciation across the cyber-sphere. To those of you who have purchased my work, long life and good health to you! Some of the profits will go into my National Insurance contribution.

Since last year, I have published two books, Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys and In the Ocean: a year of poetry. These books incorporate 129 poems written between April 2013 and April 2014. In the last 6 weeks I have posted a further 9 “fresh” poems. Since starting this blog in 2012, the grand total therefore stands at three available titles and 158 poems written by me out there in the world (and possibly a few rogue ones in letters and on scraps of paper). I mention all this as it has been said, “What can be measured can be assessed”. Productivity for April 2013 – 2014 stood at a poem every 2.8 days.

I’ll spare you the productivity tally for blog postings, but will say that being accountable to a public readership compels me to produce copy. This in itself has been a valuable working method that helped with producing articles and the two long-form projects on which I am currently working. (Spoiler: a potential novel and a non-fiction book about travel.)

I continue to work on brand BeadedQuill. This coming year I would really like to focus on matters such as ‘income stream’ and ‘product development’, ‘marketing’ and ‘audience/market development’. To be honest, these topics tire and frighten me a little. At present, I just want to write and practise (plus a bit of Bachata thrown in for diversion).  The business plan, currently a collection of scribbled notes and mind-maps, needs to be formalised.

In the year ahead, I must once again look into the following: journal submissions, the possibility of securing a literary agent, more readings and public appearances. I need to travel! (Buenos Aires for a tango holiday, ideally.) A change of landscape and diversion will recharge me, I believe. I’ve considered investigating doctoral research in creative practice.

This time last year I was in excellent health, after recovering fully from a nasty turn in 2012. This year, I wish I could say the same. Unfortunately, I experienced a little “flare” (the doctor’s poetic take on the matter) about four weeks ago. A glut of corticosteroids is bringing me ‘round, with a journey into highways of insomnia, mild hallucination (and hearing things), emotional intensity and a pervading drug-induced buzz. On occasions like this, the every two steps forward on the health journey seem undermined by the five steps back. Nonetheless, I pick myself up and go back to start.

“Zen mind, beginner’s mind is apparently a desired state for the eternal student. Encounter moments and activity as though for the first time. In this way you will let it teach you.” I wrote this as the opening of my very first post. This is still such a challenging approach. When your efforts seem to show progress, this provides direction and solace. I don’t want to keep going back to start – with The Writing or with health, or with any other number of circumstances of my life. It is nice to feel as though I’m building something.

To counter beginner’s despair, I say to myself, “There must be something redemptive here.” In addition to the number crunching at the opening, I am pleased to acknowledge that another year later –indeed, three years and seven months after my first conscious day of applying pen to paper – I am still engaged in the labour of Being A Writer.

Since my first post, I have also figured out how to insert a link to my Twitter account.

Escucha

My new muse 
is light in his visits,
is late,
never calls,
smiles his cheek,
tells me nothing.
So I invent 
everything.

My new muse
wears white-soled trainers
and a St. Christopher tucked against 
the tattoo, never seen in full.
When the night begins, 
the muse’s t-shirt smells of clean laundry.

My new muse
is an impish sprite.
He wears his hair
in spikes,
is light on his feet.

He’ll offer 4 minutes to Prince Royce,
“escucha las palabras”
but I wear too much clothing 
and worry about accurate footwork.

In the dance,
the muse
is patient with the serious poet.
He smiles a thank-you,
lets go,
leaves the floor,
leaves me turned,
shares nothing.
So I fabricate
the poem.


This poem marks the final work of my 104 project. I set about to write two poems a week for 52 weeks, to total 104 poems across a year. The aim of this endeavour was simply to produce on a regular basis. Irrespective of quality, subject matter, tone, style or artistic investment, the resulting works would be allocated to the 104 project and posted on this blog.

The creative burnout I experienced at the end of February, after a solid month of posting work, was unexpected. Production seemed to be on such a high. Another learning curve has been the resistance to completion. I have wrestled with this over the last couple of weeks.

In truth, during this time I have written more than the two poems required to complete the count. I have judged some of the work too personal or inadequate to post, thereby ignoring the very rules established at the beginning. Each of these recent poems fell short. It was not my intention to have the project end on an unceremonious note. None of them deserved to be The Last Poem.

All in all, these 104 poems (plus the 25 that were siphoned off for Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys) were not the sorts of poems I had intended should fill a book. It was my intention to explore grand themes of ars poetica, politics, justice and humanity. It felt time to explore the wide, broad, deep, conflicted, enduring state of the world.

Instead, my writing inevitably turns to examine the minutiae. Much of this last year’s work presents daily concerns of an ordinary suburban life. There are the quandaries of emotion and soul, work and provision, grocery shopping and living in rented accommodation.

130+ poems later, I am tired. It would also seem I cannot count, for not only did I recalibrated the mark as 102 on Monday, I have also counted 107 poems posted since last year. I have swum in a sea of poems and I am weary.

Truly, it has started to feel as though the muse has left me.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will already know about my current interest in Bachata, a dance style from the Dominican Republic. I have now had all of eight lessons and this last Saturday attended my first open dance party.

In this inspiration dearth, I think the muse has met me on the dance floor.

The poems of the 104 project will be compiled into a book. This will be my third since February last year. Subscribe (see tab below right), or follow on Twitter or Facebook for updates.

My other titles, available for preview and purchase via Blurb.co.uk, are Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys and Shining in Brightness.

This poem is based on the day in 2012 when I finally took the plunge and bought a laptop in London. The incessant “£299 on Strand” echoes my personal obsession with the cost of things, which I really am trying to transcend in 2014 (…both the cost of things and the obsession). This close attention to price minutiae has proved fruitful for writing, though. The tallying has found it’s way into other verses: At the moment £2 and Now here is something to marvel at…

While my favourite blend of coffee is still £2,30 at my local Sainsbury’s, fortunately soya milk is back at 59p. My palate has had enough of sultanas, so now I bypass that shelf. More recently I’ve been into dates with my morning oats. Waitrose does a 250g bag for 99p and my local Cypriot greengrocer offers two trays for £1.

Detail from Anton Melbye, "Lighthouse at Stora Bält" (1845) from image courtesy of www.wikipaintings.org/

Detail from Anton Melbye, “Lighthouse at Stora Bält” (1845) from image courtesy of http://www.wikipaintings.org/

The second-to-last exertion
is not the rainbow.
It is the to-and-fro flight 
of a raven clamped in darkness for 150 days.

Let there be
	beats the raven’s wings
Let there be
	beats the raven’s hope

No land, raven. No release.
Below yap choppy waves,
corpses float and catch 
on broken trees. No release, raven.
No land.

The raven’s wings beat
	there be no land
	there be no release
The raven’s wings beat 
above the choppy waves
and the rocking sucklings of the flood.

But the dove! 
This white-winged wonder bird
reaps the budding olive branch
and on the second flight, freedom.

The last exertion
is not a rainbow.
Although supposedly
one beamed for Noah
when the dove flew
away.


A link to Genesis 6-9 (NIV translation), which outlines the Bible story of Noah’s ark, the flood and the reconnaissance birds.

With four poems to go until the completion of the 104 project, there’s no denying that one may read in here an echo of art imitates life.

When I’m not posting on this blog, I tweet as @BeadedQuill. This Twitter account is linked to the BeadedQuill Facebook page.
If you prefer your reading in old-school format, perhaps you would consider adding one of my books to to your library? There are two from which to choose. Click on the titles below to preview.

Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys

Shining in Brightness

I try to revive a blue whale
with raw eggs from plastic bowls
in different colours
laid out in a wooden fishing boat.
To do this you must put two
or three eggs together in each bowl,
watch their yolks lilt to the tide, then
pour them through the whale’s sieve-like mouth.


This poem is a transcription of a dream I had. The notebook entry of 29/10/12 analyses the stress that probably elicited the scene, “Drowned out by my panic: income! job! career! Aaargh!” Such is the mundane reality that underpins some creative output. I am certain some English teacher in the future will invest the work with a more riveting subliminal meaning.

I have very vivid dreams. Since I was a child, I’ve had vivid dreams. “Afloat”  is another poem based on a nocturnal vision remembered and jotted down. Often my dreams are strong on action, filled with tactility and punctuated with memorable details. Only once I remember hearing music in a dream. When I stayed in South America briefly, I eventually started dreaming in very basic Spanish.

With this poem I conclude my official a Poem a Day for a Month. This bumper month of posts is part of my larger 2×52 project, during which I aim to produce a 104 poems across a year (52 weeks). The idea was to keep writing and producing. Out of 104 poems, some might not be as engaging, some might be readable and a few should, by the law of statistics, must surely be reasonably good. I shall continue to post according to my routine of two poems a week. Sign up to BeadedQuill (see tab in bottom right-hand corner) for these future poems, updates on the aimed for (e)book of the 2×52 project and other news.

Thank you for being part of this month.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness 

1.
Wake up.
Work hard.
Plan and strategise.
Talk to someone who
     has done it before.
Find a mentor.

2. 
Protect its pollen from the wind.
Blow on the quills when they
   erupt.
Wrap it in this moment
and suspend it from but what if?

It might rest its weary hope 
in a chest of velvet lined

for the unsplit bean alone 
is the treasure


During a very happy and productive year of my professional life, I used to spend Sunday evenings assessing the week that had passed, plan the week ahead and review my life, especially in terms of where I was in achieving my goals. I felt so wonderfully smug and on top of things. Yes! I was making things happen in my life. Yes! Through strategy, persistence and application I was helping my dreams to come true.

Life, they say, is what happens when you make other plans. I left that particular field, moved from the town and no longer pursue many activities with which I was then involved. Half a decade later there are only three outputs that I hold dear from that organised and hyper-functional period of my life: 1. a couple of special, enduring friendships; 2. a few poems and some essays of interest; 3. that I wrote regular letters to my Dad, who was ill at the time.

I mull much over society’s sanctioned notions of success and achievement. The product-driven pressure that a dream must be brought to fruition follows me like a shadow. If I dream of being A Writer then I must schedule writing time, move towards products and a business plan, target a definable readership, join one of the professional writers’ associations and ideally land a contract or an agent, and if not claim a stake in the indie market. This is The Way to Make a Dream Come True.

See how easily I can write about that? I have been avoiding the business plan for nearly a year. Instead, I have been writing poems, drinking coffee at my laptop and watching Bachata videos on YouTube. (Bachata is a style of dance from the Dominican Republic in which one steps to beats 1, 2 and 3 and adds a tap on beat 4.)

So now I have these additional, distracting dreams. One is of simply writing and writing and writing. The result may be endless waffle. Another is to spend time in my local indie coffee shop up the road, as an out-of-jail option when I’m feeling cabin fever. And then there is the dream of dancing like this – so much happiness on such a small square of stage above the earth. That would be treasure indeed.

Follow me @BeadedQuill on Twitter where I get carried away with YouTube forays into Argentine tango, Systema, Krav Maga and, most recently, Bachata.
Or, if you prefer, follow BeadedQuill on Facebook.
My two creative ‘babies’, my published books, are my successes of 2013. Preview them at Blurb.co.uk by clicking on the links:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys 
Shining in Brightness 

On and off for thirty years,
the lone glow of green on a square
rarely reaches a dark 2g a day
most of the time
its tenure is lime to yellow:
the tiniest trace of proteinuria

which is a fancy way of expressing
I basically piss out the good stuff
with regularity.
In body awareness circles they say
this indicates self-hatred
and fear.
Mostly it’s no big deal.


The poems to follow over the next few days may be difficult reads. That is, they draw on the tougher and more confusing experiences life throws at us such as health challenges, mortality, life’s disappointments and the indignities of ageing.

Glomerulonephritis refers to an inflammation of the glomeruli, which is responsible for filtration in the kidney. Inflammation results in an increase in excreted proteins. With decreased protein in the blood, the body swells with oedema. Dipsticks, with a small square of filter paper, are used to test how much protein might be present in the urine. Since the August after my second birthday, I have been on medication for glomerulonephritis. For decades I dismissed the presence of this circumstance. However over the last two years, I have become more vocal and self-indulgent about it.

Such extravagance, like the turn to self-embroiled subject matter in my verse, might be a passing phase of self-involvement. This is a fancy way of saying, perhaps I am inclined to self-created drama at present.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill 
Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness

Ah, this is a good one from the archives: Tied up in 8 Tentacles of a Goal Octopus.

As an update –

I don’t yet live in my wooden house with a deck overlooking a lake.

For travel in 2013, I took the train to Buckingham for Christmas. As a day trip I went out to Rye and Camber Sands in August. There was a little tango in London over the summer and in early November. Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Morocco and New York still await.

Yeah, well, the doctoral research…

2013 was a year of proactive companion searching which included internet dating, singles events, blind dates and being picked up outside my local  indie coffee shop. All in all, there were about 8 men across 10 months. Too much effort, though good fertilizer for poetry. I am taking a man sabbatical. Currently I am investigating oocyte cryopreservation (egg-freezing) plus fertilization and other options for the future. A different sort of proactive.

I’m still scratching on my much loved, old faithful tomato-box. Today I was focussing on a little Bach Courante. I’ve been working on my bow hold.

I certainly own more clothes than I did a year ago and have a had a few outfit compliments. I’m into wearing a bit of eyeliner. The old school pencil kind. I think it’s about an excuse to use a pencil, on my eyelid.

And as my grand finale, I note that I’m clocking up my tally of titles. I brought out a second book, Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys, in November last year.

Hooray for the octopus!

 

Today was the Friday
I ate only toast.
7 slices. 4 with honey; 3 with
peanut butter
a few broccoli florets raw
and an anchovy from the tin.
I drank green tea, black
tea and one cup of coffee
poured from the cafetiere.
I set out to typeset
a book – and now it’s
worse than eating nuts
fiddling with those boxes
on the screen.

When was this Friday? It was the 25/1/13. This time last year I was typesetting Shining in Brightness, my first book of poetry. I was intent on completing the book and had set myself a personal deadline. Toast and coffee are my fuel for deadlines. Consuming those seven slices and all the beverage stimulants brought back the hours of binge-typing 10,000 and 30,000 word university submissions.

You can preview some of the poems and one of the two essays on my creative process here.

I have a second book of poetry available for preview and purchase. It is Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys.
Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill