Tag Archives: inspiration

Winter is coming, but first…


Taken at a reunion of friends at Ullswater, October last year

Spring may be the time of rebirth and renewal but I always find autumn is when I am most likely to hoy myself off my ample backside and crack on and DO stuff. I suspect it is a hangover from 16 years of full time education and the whole “new academic year”, fresh start thing which became ingrained in my psyche. I always feel a restlessness and an urge to plan ahead, tidy and clean everywhere, turn a new leaf etc. Toes tap, fingers twitch and brain works at 19 to the dozen. I am at my most productive, focussed and creative as the leaves turn gold and the days shorten.

A new academic year was always a chance to wipe the slate clean and to try harder, do better. I have to confess that my enthusiasm at school wasn’t always sustained beyond the October half term but as an adult I feel energised in the run right up to Christmas. I have been lucky enough to have this past week off work and it has been a luxury to have the time to tackle some of the a million and one jobs that need doing in the garden at this time of year. I have written before about the pleasures of gardening in autumn and the weather has been great this month so I have loved all of the pruning, clearing and planting of spring bulbs that I have managed to tick off. But I have also managed to clean my venetian blinds, paint the garden fence, catch up with two friends I haven’t seen for ages (years in one case), go for a run twice and finally complete the blog post that I started last December. Ok so I admit it…by going for a run I mean wheezing while I jog for 45-50 minutes on the treadmill (long enough to watch a full episode of “The Sopranos”) but hey – it’s more than I’ve done for six months so I’m feeling smug.autumn-clean

I think perhaps there is something more primitive driving my activity levels at this time of year too. Maybe the fact that autumn is a season of change has a subconscious affect, making me want to change with it. The drop in temperature and light levels give me a sense of urgency. I want to get things done before the onset of winter when it will be so dark and grim that I know all I will want to do then, is hunker down in front of the TV with the fire on and a mug of tea in my hand. Winter is coming and I might not survive ‘til spring so I’d better get a wriggle on and do all of those things I’ve been procrastinating about for months. And if I do survive I need to make sure I’m on the front foot so investing time in tidying the garden now will make it easier to manage come March. Why do I feel the urge to reconnect with friends in the autumn? Is it because my inner Neanderthal thinks I might need my buddies to see me through the hard times to come? It’s a weird thing your sub-conscious…well mine is anyway. Still, my autumn mania has at least it chivvied me into writing again so I am not complaining.

Perhaps there is a biological explanation rather than a psychological one. Like birds knowing it’s time to migrate or leaves to change colour, maybe the reduced hours of daylight  affect my own diurnal hormone levels which in turn affects my behaviour? Although I guess if that’s the case then everyone would feel the same way come October (in the norther hemisphere at least) and I’m not sure they do. I wonder if there is any research on the matter…hang on… (returns ten minutes later)… nope. My Google search reckons people feel more depressed and fatigued in the autumn, mourning the departure of summer and dreading winter. So it’s just me then and a personality quirk rather than a natural biological instinct. Well that’s a shame and I am sorry if autumn is not your thing, it really can be stunningly beautiful, as the photo I took this time last year (at the top of this page) will testify.

autumn-lawn-careRight – less philosophical rambling next time and more substance Trowers. Until then, stay cheery my friends and enjoy the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” however you choose. I recommend catching the last of the year’s sunshine in the garden or on a country walk, with a beer at the end of the day to reward your labours.

Party Animal: Reflections (or post mortem?)

Having finally posted my first short story last week I  thought I might offer up my a few thoughts and observations about the actual process of writing it. If you haven’t read “Party Animal” yet,  scroll down to the previous post and do so first to avoid spoilers!

  1. Writing fiction is much harder than writing memoirs and general brain dumps … Coming up with an idea and a narrative arc with a beginning, middle and end is tough. I know that the plot of “Party Animal” was not particularly original but I wanted the experience of writing a short story and was inspired by all of the unavoidable  pre-Halloween hype. Hopefully the variation on an old plot was told well enough to be worth reading still.
  2. He said, she said… I struggled with the dialogue. My hubby thought that it was quite good and “naturalistic” but it didn’t feel that way writing it. For a start I had to remind myself of the basic grammatical rules for writing speech and more than once had to grab the nearest novel to see how it was done. I suspect that dialogue is one of those writing muscles that I need to exercise and that the reason I found it so hard is because it doesn’t generally come up much in the writing I do for my day job. Reports, presentations, instructions and business comms messages have to be factual, objective and unambiguous so I’m  bit rusty on the whole written conversation thing  :-/
  3. Exposition and loose ends… Another thing that I wrestled with was how much I should spoon-feed the reader and how much I ought to leave them to ponder. Being an anally retentive sort of person I have a pet hate for loose threads and (continuing the metaphor if I may) I tied myself in knots several times trying to ensure that I didn’t leave the reader saying “hang on a minute, you mentioned this earlier and now there’s no explanation”. For example, I felt that I had to conclude the problem of  the lost report at the beginning which sets the scene for her bad day, and to mention what happens to her clothing during the metamorphosis etc.  Tiny and seemingly irrelevant details but these are the sort of things that wind me up whether I’m reading, or watching a film…anyone else really bugged by the lack of explanation as to how the hell James Bond survived being shot and then falling a hundred feet off a bridge in “Skyfall”???  I can still spot a half dozen little things in “Party Animal” that I failed to explain properly. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I should trust the reader to plug the gaps. I’d be interested to know what you think – is it just my obsessive compulsive tidiness or do loose ends bug you too? Which of mine did you spot?
  4. It all takes much longer than I thought… My story was only around 2500 words long but it took me an age and I missed my target publication date by 4 days.  I had wanted to post it just before Halloween but working full time and trying to write in between maintaining a family life and managing domestic admin in the evenings and at weekends is not easy. Excuses, excuses. Next time I will set myself a more realistic deadline.

Having said all of that, it was still fun to write and a great learning experience. If I can come up with any more ideas for a good yarn I will definitely have another go. In the interim I have a backlog of other stuff to write about first and lots of research to do so I’d better get a wriggle on.