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

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

It's all about what it's all about...wait; what's it all about?

posted on: Sunday, 9 November 2014

Another week; one without much writing in it, I am afraid. This, owing to the fact that my husband has been working from home and we share an office at the moment, so my days have been interspersed with conference calls, pipeline reviews, sales cadence and so on. All a lot of corporate jargon; he spends his days sharing information, measuring and being measured. Hey, it pays the bills. But it's distracting when you are a bystander.

Meanwhile, I got a couple of days of contentedness. I get this. Days where I look back on recent months and think: what was that all about?! I've written before about the funk I have been in, that hinted at itself in March, took up full residence in June and here we are in November, still niggling away. Turning 40 turned out to be rather more challenging mentally than I had expected. But then what did I expect? I Googled turning 40 and found articles about well-preserved celebrities who felt that life was 'better than ever; I am so sure of myself compared to my insecure 20's'.

Well yes, there is that. You learn and you learn and become sure. What I can liken it to, for me at least, is that my life is like a box of stuff that I keep filling up. Friends and family and children and items and memories and experiences and films and songs and places, you get the picture. Although with me, I never forget anything. I have an elephantine memory of things that have happened, been said, been observed. I develop theories constantly in my head.

The conclusion; the box of stuff is already feeling full! Lid is coming off. Sides bulging. I find this somewhat alarming as isn't the mid-life crisis meant to denote exactly that: the MIDDLE of life?!! If the box is full where am I going to put the next 40 (God willing) or more years?!

This leads me to the need to jettison many of our belongings in an attempt to empty the box. The box is a metaphor - does that make sense?! Probably not; I expounded this theory to my friend Dawn last weekend, walking the streets of Amsterdam and sensed, looking sideways, her wry smile recognising that this is vintage Lou. Or some such nonsense.

If I were to characterise this year so far, it would be one of realisation. So many things have come clear and many of them have been thought-provoking. The reality of living with a teenager daughter and all the challenge and joy that it entails. At the moment it's calm, but there is a spectre of something, somewhere on the horizon, where it will undoubtedly get tricky again! And then raising a son, who is growing up rather fast (a modern phenomenon? nine is the new twelve; thirteen the new sixteen?). A marriage that is nearing fifteen years old (not to mention the 7 years that predated the wedding). That's over twenty years!! Whaaaaat. It's all good and I am blessed for sure, but seriously, where did the time go?!

And if it feels like this now, what on earth is it going to feel like at 80? That's one to ponder....

I assuage my thoughts with the following:

A commitment to myself to wear only clothes that please me. Like I am crafting an outer version of myself. I am embracing the different.

I cook and I cook and I cook. And then I clean it all up. There is a regularity and dependency to it.

A single, dogged, sometimes hair-brained willingness to cover any topic with my children with truth and honesty.

An acceptance of the fact that even though he still doesn't hang up his towels, nor empty the dishwasher, nor has any inclination to do the laundry, my husband is the one. Still. As Dawn reminded me last week 'Yes yours, my love, is the right human face...'* which is from the reading she gave at our wedding.

The knowledge that this is the deal right now. I know it is. I am a cliche.

A daily walk with the pup where I put the world to right in my head and come home afresh. Walking rocks.

Trying hard to make it all fit in the box!

* From 'The Confirmation' by Edwin Muir.