Thursday, 15 August 2013

August and the writer's thoughts turn ....... by Miriam Halahmy

"So where did summer go?" asked a poet friend on Facebook as August kicked in. I was at Lumb Bank, guest author on a writing retreat, and yes - it was raining hard.
Come August in England and dawn has gone dark and chill, leaves are clogging up the gutters and the flowers are fading in the patio pots. That's the thing about summer, by August its truly fading. I even wrote a poem about it one year.

Cheating on me

Here comes August
old prostitute
flowers faded in your red-dye hair.

You strut your green stuff
along days already crisp-edged
nights dark before ten.

All through parched June
classroom stiff with tired bodies
I dream of holidays

cheer myself hoarse at sports day
comfort the losers.
I wave my girl off to camp

and then it’s my turn.
air laced with your carbon cocktail.

As we shave short the lawn
lock-up and head for the hills
the sun angle shifts.

In your see-through vest
you tease us, August;
long-limbed shadow of winter.

© Miriam Halahmy

How many writers feel like pumping out the great novel in August? Its not my best time to write, I have to admit. But if I write nothing then I feel even worse. And I’m not a big fan of the term ‘writer’s block’. It’s not that I always sit down at my desk ready to write and bang out 2000 words a day. It’s simply that I believe it is always possible to do a bit of writing, even if it isn’t the next chunk of the great work you had hoped for.

But with the help of chocolate, all is not lost!
Writing this blog will be my writing for today. Some of the points below I used in a blog for Lorrie Porter's excellent blogsite last year. But somehow in August it all seems very apt to ponder it all again.

So if you are deep in August, fed up the summer is nearly over and don't feel much like writing, here are my Five Favourite Tips for rebooting the writing fervour :-

1. Write a word, write a sentence, write something. Write with thick felt tip – my latest craze is Sharpie pens – deface a large sheet of brown paper. Take a word from your manuscript and brainstorm it all over the page. Writing is the trigger. Not writing makes us feel frozen inside. We are all about words so have fun and just write some.
2. I know, I know...  writing a set of disconnected words won’t get Chapter 14 written and you are feeling anxious and under pressure and can’t I offer something better than Number 1?
Yes I can! Sit down and write for 30 minutes and then get up and walk away. That brief writing time will return your self esteem and unfreeze your writing muscle. Do 30 minutes every day in the leanest, most uninspiring, most shut, closed, tight periods when you feel blocked, and you will breathe new life into your writing. You will stand up and walk away feeling, “I’ve done it, I’ve done my writing for today and now I can load the washing, cook dinner or watch Daytime TV without feeling guilty.”

3. Ask questions. Whenever I am stuck in the middle of a novel and I just can’t seem to write the next 50 words, let alone 5000, I switch to Bold Deep Red and put up any question which comes to mind. I answer each question before I put up the next one. I’m not brainstorming questions for the sake of it. I’m letting questions take over and trigger writing which ultimately will get me unstuck, reveal where I’m headed next and get me back to writing in a linear flow.
Here are a few examples :
a) Why am I sitting here?
b) What has just happened?
c) Who is x or why or z?
d) What do I want to say, write, do here on this page, in this para, in this book?
e) What do I honestly think is going to happen next?
I haven’t found that the question really matters. It’s a device, a trigger to trick me out back into writing. It works, mostly.
4. If it doesn’t work, or sometimes because it just feels better, I go back to pen and paper.  I wrote my first novel, Secret Territory, back in the 1990s
steam- age, by hand on the kitchen table, after the kids had gone to bed.
So when I’m stuck and the writing just isn’t pouring out of me, I go back to the old ways, the contact of pen on paper and I start asking all my questions. Usually I find I’ve covered several sheets in about 10 minutes, I’m ready to fire up the laptop once more and get back on my horse.
5. I know this all sounds a bit smug and as though I can write anytime, anywhere, with just a few nudges to get going again. Well, I can’t.
But like most people who have been doing this for donkey years, I have managed to find tricks and devices which will get me out of the doldrums and off again. 
Sometimes I know you just have to call it a day or even a week. But even in the worst dry patches there’s always something you can do.Write a poem, a shopping list, a note to teacher, a letter to your old aunt ( one of my favourites because we get so few personal letters these days)
We are writers, it's what we do, it doesn't always have to be the next great novel. But it has to involve black words on white background, strung together somehow.
Good luck with your writing and do let us know if you have a great tip for getting unstuck.


Stroppy Author said...

Was it deliberate that the chocolate showed two approaches? A block of the big slab or a little, discrete chocolate button? I'm writing chocolate buttons this week :-)

Miriam Halahmy said...

Chocolate is always deliberate. It is the meaning of life...

Savita Kalhan said...

Milk doesn't do it for me. It has to be the dark stuff! A little square of the Lindt suff, orange intense preferably, staves off the post lunch languor and gets my fingers moving across the page. Nice post, Miriam. Thanks.

Richard said...

All Cheap chocolate contains hydrogenated vegetable oil, which are probably bad for you, and is definitely bad for orangutans.

You owe it to the planet, and your health, to only ever buy expensive chocolate.

If I remember correctly, Lindt is about the cheapest that you should allow yourself to buy.

Richard said...

Ouch. Sorry for the horrible grammar fail in that comment.

sue eves said...

"Writing is the trigger" - thanks Miriam - everything you've written makes sense to me. Thanks for sharing August with us.

Jan Carr said...

Great tips Miriam and so glad the chocolate's Cadbury's - the only bar worth the calories in my opinion:)