Month: November 2014

Extract from the loss of Anise Fish and her father (fiction)

Butterfly

In the book I’m working on next, Anise Fish’s mother died at her birth leaving an unresolved loss both in Anise Fish (which she fills, unusually) and in her father. I’m ordering the very splurgy first draft and found this passage of writing. The father spoken of here is Anise’s father although Colin’s Dad is mentioned at the start. (Note, this is an unedited splurge)

“Your mother was everything that was pure.”

Anise Fish nodded and nodded but Colin’s Dad wondered if it was true. In everyone- no exceptions – was a chink of darkness or an article of obstruction, stubbonness, pride. What were the foibles of Mother Fish? But this story, this particular tale, was the story they both needed to hear. This was the story that would be left in the library of their lives, and in their minds when libraries were gone and in the chemical traces of their bodies when their minds left them behind, and in their bones or the fire of their cremations at their last times. The story that said she was good and brave and true, joy embodied.

It was important that there was someone there to say, “this is who she was”, when so much of her life was not lived and they were there to keep on living, or – in the case of the father – breathing, somehow, standing in the stream of moments that came at him relentless. Her father’s grandfather had been a pastor, imbued with the wonder of living, this great life, chrysalis in the hands, butterfly in the bushes, the pale green shoots of April on the black branches forming, his grandfather showed him when he was young, very young, for the grandfather had moved along to death when he could barely remember. But these things he remembered, tadpoles in their universes, waiting to be freed, frogs croaking in damp ditches and leaping out of ponds, the sun sliding round an arc in the sky everyday and burning itself out at night, then round again in the mornings, dew and hares on the lawn, his grandfather bristle cheeked and linen clad, standing side to side, his old twisted fingers pointing, pointing at all these bare wonders. And in the warm happy cheek of Anise’s mother he had found that same wonder, that same joy, chased it liked the butterflies in his grandfather’s garden. She had brought all of it back.

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Why your creativity matters like life itself

vangogh Why write, why create art of any kind? The discussion is eternal, rooted in evolution, culture, psychology and the individual makeup and desires of each one of you who do. We are rigged in the brain to tell stories, to make sense of things, to sing, dance and make art with various levels of abstraction. We, as humans are self-aware, we want a point, we search for meaning, we construct our lives around various values and mores. We know our lives are short, we, in the main, fear death. We look back to make sense, around now, 100 years after the First World War that, more than any conflict before, robbed humanity of it’s innocence, showed ordinary men and women the horror that could invade their lives, showed lives rubbed out way way before their time. All the letters from the front, the man who wanted to ask his love to get engaged and said so – in a letter that she would only receive ‘because I am dead’. This woman, who went on to have a different life with a husband, and children and grandchildren had the locket from her young soldier on her death bed aged 90, the life with him and his life never lived. These examples tear at us and, at times, galvanise us towards living every moment, to expressing what is real and true and dear to us through words. On a lighter note, to entertain, uplift, distract, we also are creative and playful in exploring what we love about life.

Yesterday I wrote about how taking part in a writing challenge like NaNoWriMo is an heroic act that helps us fulfill those deep seated wishes to make something more of our lives, to dig right in and express what is within us. There are so many ways to do it, through crafts, fashion, baking, sports, whatever you burn to do but, in the start, we must turn to those things and stick with them and try and try.

We don’t want to die without meaning. We want to do something that will live on. That is why this video from one of my favourite TV shows speaks to so many (in the last few days it has 40,000 shares on Facebook). (If you can’t see it, it depicts Van Gogh, having been brought forward in time, getting to see his legacy and the love people had for his art – a realisation that is utterly moving). This is the reason your artistic endeavor matters.

Three glorious, heroic reasons for you to do #NaNoWriMo when you can’t

If you are trying to fit writing into a busy life it might seem ridiculous to think you can write 50,000 words in a month but the NaNoWriMo writing challenge asks you to do just that. I’m writing here 5 days after the start so if you haven’t already signed up you’ll have some catching up to do. I’ve completed NaNoWriMo three times. It won’t get you a finished novel or anything like it but I’ll tell you what it is brilliant for and why you should consider doing it (or just doing your own version of it alongside the NaNoWriMers.)

1) Valour/Focus: It takes away all your excuses and faffing, you just have to sit down and churn out stuff. You’re life is full, it’s impossible but you’re going to do it anyway, to rise to the challenge in between the cracks of your life. And it works, words arrive and you need to experience the magic of that just to know it can come true. Now and in the future. You can keep doing this. A novel is not just for November.

2) Perseverance/Discipline. Writers, even the famous ones hate writing. With NaNoWriMo there’s a (metaphorical) stick over you. You must sit down every day, at a particular time if possible, you must clear the decks, you must do it and repeat, repeat, repeat for 30 days. You will not give up. After 30 days you might have got the idea that bums on seats and writing when you hate it is what it takes to be a writer. You ARE a writer. You have gone through fire for it! You have gained mastery and skill!

3) Rewards: You come out at the end with a whole heap of lovely money. Well not money but riches, yes, amazing stuff, writing made of risks and sparkle. Beautiful things you never would have written if you weren’t wrenching it from your gut, scraping the bottom of the barrel, digging right down into your own darkness and molten core. This is what YOU are made of, this is what YOU want to say, this is EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO SHARE WITH THE WORLD. (Later you can tone down the embarrassing bits, or not.) Publishers want to see, not crazy books but books with an edge, a heart, dripping and bleeding and a soul as deep as outer space. Write a novel. With NaNoWriMo you might almost kill yourself trying. but you’re a hero with a voice now shouting across the universe. (Meglamaniacal laugh.)

(If this war cry is not enough, I have some practical tips to help you ace NaNoWriMo here.)

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