On writing...

posted on: Thursday, 27 November 2014

I have always been in awe of writers. Making a profession from that which is already in your brain seems very special to me; a club that only few can join and one that you certainly can't buy or train your way in to. My view: writers write because they have to, words spill out as there is no room for them inside. It's a calling. And despite that impetus, it's an overpopulated calling. My Mum, who is a voracious reader, often despairs at the poor quality of writing in so many books (although rarely in articles, which says a lot for the journalistic profession). There are books that seem lucky to have ever been published, with flimsy story lines and flimsier characters. The lesson: being able to construct a sentence does not a good writer make. Where is the editor?

Sylvia Plath, on whom I wrote my dissertation.
And I read the daily musings of what I call 'real' writers, I am so consistently impressed by the quality, the depth, the sheer human feeling of the writing. Sometimes, my readers comment and say they like how I write and that I am honest and that they see themselves in what they read. To me, this is what writing is all about. The ability to transport the reader to a place they recognise but that is not their own. And to do so convincingly.

So to report on the 'book in me' that I have referred to since I gave up working in the corporate world, yea, well...it's coming along, but only in my mind's eye! Writing is a solitary activity and one that requires countless hours in front of a screen. It also requires (at least for me) absolute concentration and an immersion that is not so compatible with the stop/start of family life. I think this is why my blog has been so enduring; it can take as little as twenty minutes for me to write and decorate a blog post and so is often done in the evening as dinners simmer or homework chats ensue. It's a download rather than a formed discipline. Nevertheless these are excuses for the fact that if I wanted to write, I would.

I started writing short stories as a novel seemed even more elusive for my amateur self. A publisher friend suggested that my writing style was more observational/conversational (hence why the blog works) rather than fictional. But at the root of it all is my need to notice life and to record its meaning. And in every thing I read, the great empathy I feel when a writer has achieved that aim is what spurs me on to write. The more I read, the more I want to write.

But I know I am not alone in wanting to write and those voices in my head (everyone has those, right?) say it's a saturated, cerebral market and maybe I am not good enough and honestly, as my English teacher always said to me: 'Louise, you write in a convoluted way; you can not assume that the reader is with you in your thoughts!'

But again and again as I loop around the 'what to do?' question in life, I come back to writing as an anchor. So I take that to be a sign. In much the same way as when I called to enquire about the blue shoes, I was told that there's only one pair left in the ENTIRE country. This is a sign. And so dear reader, they will be mine!

They will say about me: 'Shoes and words; that's all she ever knew.'

Lou xx

The blue shoes and all that they represent...

posted on: Tuesday, 25 November 2014

So I am standing in an LK Bennett today - the bastion shoe shop of the career girl - whilst chatting to a school mum who witnessed me furtively checking out jodphur-style black trousers (comfort vs style?) I spy a pair of cobalt blue heels. They are reminiscent of the Carrie shoes that she wore for her wedding in the film (I ponder whether anyone who doesn't get this reference can still be a friend of mine). I think, with sadness, that I have nowhere to wear these shoes and that is why they will not find their way into my life. Yet they haunt me all day and I want them like I wanted patent red Mary Janes when I was eight. Hmmmm.

Shoes and I - we are comfortable bed fellows.

Meanwhile, I was meant to be Christmas shopping, but that kinda fell by the wayside in favour of lining my own nest. Every time I make an assertion that I will not buy anything else and then every time I falter. In my job I used to make assertions about legal principles; now my assertions are slightly less weighty.

There's a new 'One Direction' album out. This means a constant loop in our house. I know the words by heart already. 'Her mother doesn't like that kind of dress'.

We are in the depths of winter now; darkness falls at 4.30pm and we all hunker down for the night long before we should because it is so damn dark outside. There is nothing to make of this other than the observation that England sucks this time of year. I look at summer's Florida pictures and marvel that we ever basked in the heat and watched the sunset on beaches whilst toasting s'mores on a fire pit. Roll on mid-winter and then we come out the other side.

I have started working on a little venture. I know, I know - I have said this before. But this one is close to my heart and I have no expectations of it. I am going to sell on Etsy and that's it. No broad and lofty plans of world domination. Just a little something that might make a difference to someone, somewhere. I will share more soon.

So back to the cobalt blue shoes. There was a time, before I was steeped in mud and dog walks and school runs, when those shoes would have been just my cuppa tea. In fact the angst would have been about my inability to afford them rather than their suitability to my life. Oh how times change. I am still contemplating going back and getting them. Out of principle. And I ask myself again: why is life not more like Sex and The City??!!

all images via they all hate us

Chill your beans...

posted on: Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I've been absent; time spent battling away with a million little things that have added up to form one big thing, resulting in these life observations:

With me, stress has its effect at least three months after the event itself. It's a delayed programme.
I am not such a good housewife. But conversely the chaos of mess really bothers me.
I am predictable in my emotional reactions to things.
My husband is a patient man.
My children are oblivious.
I ask everyone I meet what they think about x, y and z and yet still can devise no single solution or plan for myself.
I write about it here and imagine long term readers sighing quietly into their coffee and thinking 'here she goes again...'
I am rather too hard on myself as I read this back. Type, delete, type, delete.

As an aside - it remains utterly bizarre to me that people sit in their houses, or in their cars scrolling through this blog reading my thoughts and musings. I had a lovely anon comment recently saying 'I so love your blog...' and it warmed my heart, as when you hit publish, sometimes it's hard to imagine that the content goes anywhere that will actually reach someone. Nice.

But back to life observations.

The sun has come out for the first time in a week today. As I walked on the beach this morning, I thought to myself how the weather makes such a difference to mood. Hard to get excited about the day when it rains constantly, there is mud everywhere (rural life) and the sky is low and grey. As my friend Tania The Writer would put it: dreich. I would like to be known as Louise The Writer one day. I have a friend, who sensing my need to not be stuck at home housewife-ing, offered for me to join her in her funky TV production office in order to get my creative juices flowing. The tenderness of this offer floored me. She knows me well. She sees the signs. Home alone is not good for me.

Meanwhile I spent last week having lunches with ladies. All very interesting; these are the demographic of the population, of which I suppose I am now one, who don't do paid work. What they do is learn french and craft things and do Pilates and generally 'keep themselves busy'. This observation belittles the work rate they maintain of managing a home and husbands and children. It is a never-ending, up at dawn siege interspersed by driving and cooking! It's not 'hard' of course, but it can be somewhat draining in its monotony. More kindness and offers of company and entertainment and I see for the first time in a long time, that the inclusive embrace of the school mums can open up and give support and validation. I enjoyed this at the school my children previously attended, but as time has gone on, it has lessened. The schedule demands of two children at different schools and a corporate (absent) husband can count me out of many of the activities that bond women together. Rightly or wrongly. Turns out making friends after 40 is as hard as making friends when I was 8. It's just a different playground.

I can report that the leather leggings have not yet had an outing. I am painting a floor in the house white (surprise) with thick boat paint; I want it to look like a glistening deck. The mantra I keep saying to myself is 'Lou: chill your beans'. I can't even get my head around Christmas - my son tells me its is 38 days away. Eeeek. I downloaded an app called Gratitude where you enter a journal every day of what you are grateful for. It's meant to be life changing if you do it for a month...shall we see?!

images via annixen blog

Of mice and men...

posted on: Wednesday, 12 November 2014

It seems motherhood extends to Auntie-hood. My niece is working on an essay in which she's keen to gain an 'A' grade. She called me for help; as I am a literature grad. It transpired it was an essay on a book I had never read (Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men') and I couldn't blag my way through with musings about the American dream. Turns out modern education is actually pretty good; there were no flies on her. So I agreed to read the book (overnight, in time for her deadline) and provide support and guidance, as all good Aunties should. Result: speed-reading like I was at Uni again (and flashbacks of my friend Nikki knocking on my Halls of Residence door hurrying me along for our lectures). I quite enjoyed the whole throw-back exercise, remembering my academic roots when the glittering career stretching out ahead of me seemed full of promise and possibility! Perhaps I should have done a PhD?! Incidentally I texted my old friend Nikki to ask her view (she's an English teacher nowadays and probably recites that book in her sleep). Calling in the big guns, so now we are all hoping to get an 'A' grade...

Meanwhile, in efforts to be like Elle Macpherson I have finally bought leather leggings - much to my children's amusement when they saw them hanging up. My daughter declared them 'Gangsta' (with an 'a') and my son asked why there were 'motorbike' trousers in the house. Elle: you have a lot to answer for. God knows where I will wear them, but having them makes me smile.

As previous posts attest to, there is altogether too much navel-gazing going on, so I set myself some corporate-style attainable goals. When's my appraisal?

Firstly, listen to 'Women's Hour' every day. For perspective.
Secondly, spend an hour a day writing. No matter what.
Thirdly, join a writer's group. I did this and will be penning for 'Selfish Mother'.

Go me.

What else?

I use this space to write what is on my mind and sometimes what is on my mind has no real place here. It's hard to judge; honesty here has always been really important, but equally when I look back on previous posts I see how frustrating it must be to read what I write! There is a vulnerability in me at the moment and I fear it shows. There is a theme; my ex-boss once identified a trait in me; I am like a dog circling in its basket! I know I do that; it takes me ages to settle and I realise how odd it must seem to observers. What can I say?! Bear with me. I am sure I will work it all out at some point and once I am clear, I hope I will relax.

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