Writing back into it

I had a job interview last week, I didn’t get the job. It was a (very) part-time, temporary post, but I still would have liked it as the department looked ace. I did, of course, put a lot of preparation and thought into it. (Not going to whine: this preparation isn’t wasted as I can use it with my creative writing groups and future interviews.) This meant that last week the work towards PhD thesis completion was a little limited.

I have a month to go.

I’m so close. It’s nearly at the complete draft / rip bits up / rewrite problem areas – or at least flag ’em up for potential discussion / neaten and sort out the (blasted!) referencing stage.

‘Er, Jen?’ I hear you say, ‘If you’re so close then why the heck are you writing here rather than in Chapter Six 19.09.17.docx?’

Well, since you asked so nicely, it’s partly because I feel a little burned out and therefore moderately distractible/down, partly because of the time of year, but mostly it’s The Fear. The last two chapters were supposed to be the “best” chapters, the two I feel that I know most about. A chance to showcase some of my own creative work.

I open the document.

Know what I have to do.

Then stare at the cursor, it beats on the screen as if it’s constantly giving me the finger.

Flip, flip, flip.

I’ve built it into this impossible thing – where ambition outstrips ability (and time-scale). To evoke a simile involving the South Pennine fringe: it’s like climbing up the surface of the sheer gritstone face of Summit Quarry in the rain, with no carabiners nor any climbing nous. I’ve gotta climb this beast and the only way, for me, to do that is to write into it. Et voila, a blog post.

Hyperbole aside, while this piece of work, ultimately, won’t change the shape of the universe: ‘there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle’. Over the past few years, it’s taught me a few things about writing. In creativity, there is ‘a place for the genuine’.

Rather than a WOW! These Ten Writing Tips will BLOW YOUR MIND, the following is a list of things I find helpful (when I remember to put them into action). And I’m sharing them in the hope that it’s a helpful list! Would love to hear your thoughts too.

  1. That little voice, you know, the one that says ‘What the hell are you doing?! What right do you have to do that? You know that it’s going to be rubbish anyway? You can’t!’ may not go away but there are ways of coping with it
  2. You ARE good enough. And you CAN do this. Just gotta believe it – while retaining a sense of humility.
  3. Foster a resilience: learn it, remember it, put into practice.
  4. Locate your allies, they do exist. (In my case: my supervisory team, friends, family, fellow creatives.) If low, and feeling on your own, they will be there.
  5. Unless someone has something constructive to say, ignore the trolls. (I know, it’s hard, people can be gits.) As Taylor Swift sings: ‘Haters gonna hate, (hate, hate, hate, hate)’.
  6. Sometimes you’ve got to write your way in, or around it, to get where you need to go to. Or, if not, to take you on a wobbly, or even circuitous, route elsewhere.
  7. Your writing &/or research is important; there may not be many other people writing about, or looking into, this area (yet!).
  8. LOOK! You just made something up/wrote something down that wasn’t there before. That’s some kind of magic, yes?!
  9. If you can’t write, do something related to it. (I make stuff in a joyous amateur way, possibly not/never for sharing!)
  10. Nothing is ever really completed.

I think I might have written somewhere before about the feeling that when you make something, and then share it, that sometimes it is like putting your heart on a platter. And with that, I’d better pop off and get that organ ready for plating.

Flip, flip, flip off cursor.

***

In other news, this week marks 20 years since I left home for a tumultuous three years in Sunderland. If someone can go back in time and tell the tempestuous little idiot pictured below that, while everything won’t quite be all right, it’ll be more or less OK.

Red eyes! I think that I got an infamous Boots 'Quality Control' sticker for this one.

Red eyes! I think that I got a Boots ‘Quality Control’ sticker for this one.

On not completing poetry and the near future…

So, didn’t quite achieve a poem a day like last year. Partly because I’m writing up, partly because of the onslaught of bad news, partly because I didn’t have a solid theme. I will do better next year!

Follow the route against the current. (River Goyt through Woodbank Park, Stockport, Greater Manchester.)

Follow the route against the current. (River Goyt through Woodbank Park, Stockport, Greater Manchester.)

All concentration is now focussed on finishing my PhD thesis – not as easy a task as it sounds. Writing up various notes, editing bits that – whoops – are currently ropey and need smoothing and/or expanding. And I’m thinking of the future. I was worried last September that time had zoomed by and that I would be unemployed/underemployed/unemployable by October 2017. Basically, I love this job. I love the mix of outreach which has incorporated teaching/tutoring creative writing, the research, and writing. Statistically, however, I may not be able to break into an academic role. I’m not as worried now, though; I’m sure that I can use this academic knowledge to share skills in different, possibly unorthodox ways! I am confident in my skills as a speaker/teacher, even with some “stage fright” at conference times. (Anyway, public speaking is just acting, like creative writing is acting.) While my research is niche, I do have publishing ideas with the work I’ve done so, hopefully, I can get that out there when I’ve finished. Finally, being “Doctor B” will be awesome (no, not that sort of Doctor but I can pop you in the recovery position if need be).

So yes, there will be more poetry/writing but it may be after I’ve finished this 80,000ish word document!

And with that – back to writing Rochdale.

A Poem a Day #7: Thinking through making

Dodgy perspective but I'm happy for a first attempt!

Thinking through making

I craved green
so I tried to weave a wall hanging,
it came apart – the warp the weft – there were no threads left

I craved green
so I knitted a blanket to wrap the day up in,
vivid shades of jade, viridian,
it was unravelled by the cats.

I craved green
so I organised a picnic with herbs:
lacy white cow parsley, wild garlic, jack-by-the-hedge
the static rain made the grey tarmac black

I craved green
so I painted
so I potted
so I pottered.
A watercolour landscape looked grainy,
a thrown pot the same.
I walked in the park and found
dying daffodils, bald spots,
tried to grasp handfuls of grass
a reward of muddy fingers.
Looked left: a blue glass pyramid,
looked right: a beige housing estate
in front: all sloping browns,
behind: listing trees, broken brick.

We are not being bombed, or attacked.
We have fresh water from the taps.
This park isn’t (yet) being fracked.
So, why is this melancholy tract
not trying to make sense of that?

Thinking through making,
making and thinking,
wanting something to sink in
wanting something to stick.

There is more to this than craving green
and wanting to do more than making
but this will have to do for now,
this will have to do.

Poem a Day #6: “Guilty Pleasures”

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“Guilty Pleasures”

See all about it
the photograph tells
a thousand lies
a couple
smiles peroxide shark
eyes that lack
a starry glitter

can you believe it?
do you?

Believe that
they’re a loveheart
carved into a tree
sap-scabbed bark
a permanence
or collagen filler

They are
the carcrash
for your PritStick eyes
She’s in her free bikini
Venus with silicone orbs
paparazzi goddess
bottle brunette
hand held in the fist
of His
a butcher’s knuckle
of a Man

A Man without a Plan
for those sub-heads
tabloid’s favourite nightmare
you save to wrap
the china
you keep for Best.

A Poem a Day #5: On knowing nothing

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On knowing nothing
ipse se nihil scire id unum sciat – Cicero

And I said: nothing will come of nothing.
Then I tried to examine my life
through notebooks, pencil sketches, a drawing,
lines scribbled over. I’m supposed to strive
for high ideals
. That poem on the wall,
that creased, yellowed, clichéd observation
half-way up the stairs: a beautiful world.
Stodgy stanzas and then the frustration:
not knowing any “proper” poetry.
Subsistence, to stumble on or to climb
down, or up, to the (multi)verse. Well, try,
be that poet in that tree, on a limb,
watch the day shed in leaves then shade to blue.
There’s still a lot of nothing left to know.