I had to be quick in yesterday’s blog because I was being pulled away by my poetry, so now that the first notes and lines are down on the page, I thought I’d share with you what I’m writing at the moment.
After a difficult year of not writing but reading lots, an idea sparked in May this year. It came to me to write a sequence of poems about my early inspirations and motivations as a writer. I’ve been storytelling since I was about six and have always known that I am a Writer; that writing is as much a part of my identity as my green eyes or auburn hair. Reaching back into the past to think about what had once inspired me when I was currently stumped and stagnant was a bit odd to start with, but then was a warm, positive and affirming experience. The topics or subjects that I remembered form the basis of my poetry sequence, each one having its own poem (I think there will be eight...but there’s always room for things to change!).
I began by digging out my first (and only) typewriter...and making notes as I rediscovered it after about fourteen years (God, I’m getting old!). I wanted to capture how much hard work, both physically and mentally, writing can be; using the format of an inky, splotchy typewriter font – for this texture and tangibility is part of the typewriter’s appeal to most writers, I’d argue – alongside the imagery and metaphor of a blacksmith. After nine drafts (yes, nine! But this was the first thing I’d written in a year and a half, so let me off!), I felt it was finished – it had earned its title of ‘The Writer’s Toil’.
Next up is a bit of a guilty secret which I’m going to confess to you all – I love the TV show ‘Murder, She Wrote’! Let me explain... Both the programme and the main character have long been an influence on me as a writer (and not by enticing me to commit any crimes or murders, I hasten to add!), and I felt it was time to pay my respects. My mum passed away when I was eleven and I grew up without an adult female role model (I’m an only child with no close family, and my dad was on his own until four years ago) – except for Jessica Fletcher, that is. Each week, into our home came Jessica and the cosy community she is part of, celebrating her not only as a strong, independent woman, but also as a writer. There is much about her character, her personality that is worth discussing, and I do so in ‘Dear Jessica Fletcher’. On the heels of this poem came my more impersonal and impartial take on exactly what I found in the TV show that was inspirational: ‘Murder, We Wrote’ is a shorter, sharper poem which retains my admiration for the original programme.
I’m currently working on Poem Four, which is about the thesaurus and what an invaluable tool this is for a writer. Ever a connoisseur of words (as you already know!), I often sit and read both the dictionary and thesaurus, and have learned to improve my work simply by swapping a redundant word for one that pulls its weight. This is what I hope to convey through the imagery and themes of alchemy and apprenticeship (cue thoughts of scratchy scrolls and bubbling test tubes!) – but we’ll have to see how it goes! I’ll be writing the first draft on Thursday using the first thoughts I wrote yesterday, so I’ll keep you posted.
Poem Five will be about – shock, horror – my misspent youth: a bit of a word-thief, I collected phrases and sentences from books and songs, writing them in a notebook to use later in my own work...eek! This is, of course, plagiarism, the worst crime a writer can commit – but I didn’t know it then. My get-out-of-jail-free card is that I actually never used one word from someone else – I realised that any effect to come out of it would be false, untrue and empty, because it wouldn’t be my work. It wasn’t worth it – becoming better on my own was. Phew, I hear you cry!
Those of you who went to school with me will know that I was always the English-swot in the corner, though I was rubbish at anything that didn’t involve words (Maths, Science and PE – particularly! – come to mind) – and so the word-success I achieved at school will be the focus of Poem Six. School is a rocky experience for most of us, and socially it was for me – but once again I found solace in stories, and that’s what this poem will show.
My love of reading won’t surprise any of you, and this will be the basis of Poem Seven. Titles, favourites, ones not liked; ones I wish I’d written, those I’m glad I didn’t; the world that I – we, if you’re a fellow reader – enter when a book is open – all of these may well find their way into this poem...and if not, well, don’t disturb me, I’m reading!
Lastly, Poem Eight will be about my Identity as a Writer – and I’ve deliberately capitalised these two words. Why? You’ll see when I get to this poem! This one will most likely be quite personal and possibly poignant, particularly as there are times in my life where I’ve fought against being a writer because I’ve tried to grow up, get a proper job and buy a house – and failed! But what I’ve got instead – well, it’s worth more than I can say and I couldn’t live without it.
So there we are, my sequence complete. The actual running order may well be different to how I’ve numbered them above – and I’d welcome any feedback from other writers or crafts-people with experience of how to choose the order of a larger project...so get in touch if this is you! I should also explain that I’m not able to post the actual poems on my blog, because doing so is seen by many writing competitions, anthologies and small presses (though there are always exceptions, of course), as already being published, which makes that piece of work ineligible for entry – and, thinking of future opportunities, I don’t want to rule myself out of the running before I’ve even entered the race! However, if you would like to read any (or all) of the poems above, please leave a comment here or on Facebook and I’ll email them to you privately – which is simply sharing my work with a reader and won’t mean I can’t do anything else with them!