Speed post to let you know I’ve a new poem about EMDR therapy, published today on Fevers of the Mind.
I always know when my writing needs to take a back seat. My brain simply ceases to play ball. I grasp for words – and find them – but the fizzy excited feeling has faded. I’ve lost my oomph.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’m not writing. It means I have to turn my attention to being able to pay the bills – so my writing energy is spent on creating killer product descriptions, and beautiful web content. It’s still writing, I still enjoy it – but poetry is dormant. For now.
That said, I’ve a few pieces due to be published soon, in places like Sledgehammer, The Dawntreader and Streetcake, and they’re poems I’m really proud of. I’m also immensely pleased with the writing I’m producing for Spelt – it’s an honour to be part of this growing publication.
I’m very aware of how my style has grown over the last six months or so. I really believe in the work I’m submitting, and feel confident that they are worth reading. The need for approval ebbs and flows, of course – I’m putting my heart on a page but I feel my words are more authentic.
I’ve also realised what kind of creator I am. There are some who are market and money focused – a place I dipped into – and some who are not. This is encapsulated by an experience with a local artist who was just delighted to have found a home for a piece she’d done. This doesn’t mean she didn’t charge for her work – it means there was a genuine warmth and love for both the sketches and the recipient.
The whole experience was joyful. I have never been avaricious, and the times when I’ve been least happy have been if I try to force myself that way. I write for money, because it’s my living, but I create for the sheer love of creating, and because I have something to say. And that is when my work is at its best.
So is this a fallow period? Who knows – the warning signs that I’m pushing too hard are nipping at my ankles, and I’ve made the decision to withdraw from my York CLL course, just to recover a little breathing space. If I know myself at all, in a week or two I’ll get that naggy feeling (usually as I’m dropping to sleep) and the words will return.
Thank you – your support and interest is invaluable to me.
Two posts in two days? What brings this flurry of blog based activity? I’ve had news! Happy news and I want to shout about it!
The first is having a piece accepted for a new lit mag called Sledgehammer. Having any work accepted is the most glorious feeling (and balances the gloom of having work declined) and this is no exception. The piece they’ve taken is a new poem too, which feels extra exciting. A new poem in a new magazine!
The second bit of news is seeing the proof copy of Spelt – my name is on the cover, and I could pinch myself. I’ve been close to giving up so many times, but I finally feel like I’ve found some kind of writerly home. I’m proud as punch, and going to spend an hour or two basking in the feeling of being part of something I really believe in.
So there we are. A spot of shameless showing off. Not the thing to do, but sometimes good things are worth shouting about.
This year has been one of my best. Ok, so that’s not entirely true – what I mean is, this year has been one of my best as a writer. I’ve been longlisted and shortlisted in several competitions, had various pieces published including one in actual print, which always feels super special, plus I’ve published an illustrated poetry zine. Compared to the gloom and despondency I felt about my work at the start of the year, I finish the year feeling positive – about writing at least- and I put it all down to poetry prompts.
Why do poetry prompts help ?
For me it works in two ways. Firstly, it’s the element of playfulness. A prompt kick starts my mind, starts the language and rhythm circling. It may not be a subject I like or would consider, but once I give the words time, often something good emerges. Often something terrible emerges too and that’s also cool. It’s all writing and it doesn’t all need to be seen.
I’ve learnt that I either write something super quick, like my shortlisted 100word poem/story for Lightbox Originals winter competition, or I need to spend several weeks thinking, tweaking, revising. I guess this is true for most writers. I think the greatest thing that working with poetry prompts has given me is a sense of fun and possibility. I love writing again in a way that seemed impossible at the beginning of the year.
Where do all these poetry prompts come from?
Ah now this is my secret weapon. If you follow my blog, you’ll know I’ve taken several “prompt a day” courses, created and run by Wendy Pratt. It’s a simple idea with immense results. I benefit from the discipline of daily prompts. I also benefit form being part of a very kind online writing group that’s associated with each course. I’m not a great group person, but I’ve felt welcome, safe, and confident enough to share my work and seek feedback.
The other aspect of this is that I’m reading countless poems each day, understanding what works, understanding how a quirk of word or comma can completely change the feel of a poem. I’m also learning what a huge range of responses a small group of people will have to a prompt. There’s no sense of “getting it wrong”. A lot of this has to be down to the attitude held by Wendy herself – even the simple fact that she allows some of us to pay a little less for the courses (and gives excellent way of self-assessment) shows an understanding that this sort of thing really is a luxury and helped me feel there was a place for me here. It’s a good feeling.
As the year draws to a close, I feel aware of myself as a writer. My work has grown tremendously over the last twelve months; I see a stark difference between what I’m writing now and the work in Yes to Tigers for example. I seem to have a bit more confidence, and I’m definitely having a lot more fun.
I’ve given my site a bit of refresh – I’ve a dedicated page for my published work, as well as an updated “Why this all began” page. News on my pamphlet submission will be coming in the next few months (and I am hating waiting – this is one of the biggest things I’ve done so far) plus I’ve the usual round of competition and journal entries.
By far the best news is that my recent ill spell seems to have passed and I’m relishing having two or three days a week where I feel able to write and work and feel very slightly free.
Wash your hands, stay safe, eat a mince pie, and read your favourite books. Maybe try a poetry prompt too.
To a commission a poem, piece of short fiction or buy a copy of Yes to Tigers email email@example.com
Would you like to hear some positive stuff? Amongst the disruption of Covid, and fear around curious political manoeuvrings, 2020 has been challenging to say the least. In amongst all this, there have been some personal positives. This has been my best year so far in terms of publication, with work appearing in high profile online journals, being placed in Paper Swans Press single poetry competition and now appearing in Popshot- which feels like a big achievement. The feeling of holding something in my hand which has my words inside is hard to beat.
I feel a little awkward about the poem – it’s about something that makes me uncomfortable, and something that I rarely talk about (put paid to that haven’t I?) but issues around body image follow many of us throughout our lives. I thought I was fat when I was seven stone, I thought I was fat when I was nine stone (a fact reiterated by a helpful GP) I’ve never felt comfortable with my body, the responses it elicits and the assumptions that are made. I’m an average size now, to go with my just over average height (and gosh I hate to be average anything) but I still long to be tall and interestingly skinny. Preferably adorned with a permanent pair of Magenta de Vine style sunglasses.
This issue of Popshot is about freedom, and being free from my body is a curious hope, (especially now M.E. means I can’t even enjoy a simple walk – it’s like a prison on some days) but this poem represents that freedom, as well as touching on the power and promise of the ocean. I’m angry that we are so manipulated into believing we have to present our bodies in a certain way that we’ve damaged our digestive systems with endless diets, spend thousands plucking and colouring and poking to meet some ideal that no one really understands any more. I’m not angry with the fact that people do these things, I’m just frustrated that we are so trained to dislike ourselves that looking like someone else feels like the only way to be happy.
Aha I promised positivity didn’t I? I think being able to talk about this is positive – chats with colleagues and friends about diets have always brought a feeling of absolute inadequacy, and a huge sense of anxiety. Enjoying food in front of others is always tainted by wondering what assessments are being made and I always long to be the person who fulfils the stereotype and orders proper ladies’ food like a dainty salad* just so I can avoid the feeling of being judged. I never do and always end up in a pull of pride at not bowing to convention, and an overwhelm of self- loathing. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
Writing this poem is a bit of battle cry, a bit of determination not to be bowed down by convention. Will it make a difference to how I feel? Who knows, but I hope reading my poem brings a spark of positivity and more than that I hope freedom begins to move beyond the waves. The fact that it has such a powerful, apposite illustration courtesy of Shut Up Claudia is the icing on the, ahem, cake.
You can buy Popshot from leading news outlets like WHSmith, or via the Popshot website. The Freedom issue is full of work that is funny, moving and challenging and I’m proud to be part of it.
*no disrespect to those who order a dainty salad.