Monday, 30 May 2011

Writer's Block...

Writer's block. The ultimate in writing malaises. The ssshhh...! dreaded silence syndrome.  Mad misfortune of muteness. The paralysing side-effect of inking. The bane of every writer's existence. Bah bloody humbug attitude. Oh woe are we writers.

Afraid I'm a little symptomatic of late. Well, I'm a chronic sufferer to be honest. Comes and goes. Repeatedly. But, chin always up. 'Nothing happens and nothing happens, and then everything happens.'  My reassuring riposte. I forget who this quote comes from, discovered it on a 'kit' for wannabe writers, while book browsing in a museum shop funnily enough. There were art kits there too, but they're understandable - artists need nice solid materials  to get creating.  But a writer's kit? What do writers need to write? A feather quill and a vellum manuscript? Well according to this kit, fancy floral-embossed paper, fountain pens and a box decorated with quotes on the craft. All for a hefty price-tag too. Like that's gonna help! (Well, I suppose I did get a quote from it...)

Writers only need inspiration. A pen, pencil, marker, crayon, kohl-liner, whatever's handy, and a scribble-pad or notebook or keyboard. But inspiration, aha, now that's the elusive one. The come-and-go unaccountable and much-prayed-for one. The one that can't be sold in a kit or purchased.  (Unless from an unicorn, deity or Muse in an alternate universe). 

To anyone who thinks writing's easy - pah!  Read this and weep: 'There's nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein' - Walter Wellesley 'Red' Smith. It's all about pouring out the soul. It's never easy, never automatic, like say, a 9 to 5 job, or aerodynamic engineering or whatever other straight-up road-mapped jobs spring to mind.  Especially where something so fleeting and ephemeral as inspiration is involved.

Mark Twain was aware of the technical trauma of writing - 'the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.' Way to pack the pressure on Mr Huckleberry! Of course  he's right though. Sitting deliberating over one word for more than one hour may cause  any sane person to break down in a sweat, but the writer is trained in patience and perseverence...yeah right. If  you want to see an example of this excruciating state, check out the 1987 Danny deVito and Billy Crystal  comedy 'Throw Mama Off the Train', where Crystal plays a writer suffering from writer's block so bad that he has to resort to mayhem and murder to get his mojo back.  Don't say I didn't warn ya ;-)

'A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people',  Thomas Mann said. Hmmm, there's a litmus test. Do you spend ages writing a letter that could be penned in five minutes, or typing a text message? Do you feel like you're walking a tightrope, trying out the trapeze every time you put pen to paper? Check. And do you experience mind-numbing blankness from time-to-time when attempting to navigate that white page? Fear that it could swallow you up and spit you out again, like some kind of malevolent metaphorical Antarctica. Double-check! Welcome to the occupational hazard of writing: block.
But then, why do writers do it? Why do we do it if it's that agonising? As someone involved in a toxic but passionate relationship might say, for the good bits. When it's good, it's damn good. Days when the words flow fluently over the page, not easily, but enjoyably, almost unconsciously. Days when it feels like you're taking dictation from some starry storyland every word a wonder, not digging and scraping in the empty quarry pit of your mind until you give up, disconsolate and despairing. Like standing knee-deep in a river for weeks straining and sieving until suddenly you strike gold and everything turns golden in return.

So, if you're a shrewd observer you will notice inconsistencies in the regularity of these blog entries. Don't hear from me for weeks? Now you know why. I'm battling a block. Weathering the self-doubt, blankness, banality and drought of inspiration. But I'll recover. I'll write back. Writer's block is thankfully only a temporary affliction. And there is a cure..... 

Keep writing of course! Write to get up and over it. Write it away. Write to right it. Easier said than done I know, but it does work. So here I am, writing it out by writing about it. Face the fear and it shall surely fade and all that...

Awaiting the next inspiration,

~ Siobhán.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Blue Sky Space

Where Do You Write? - Arvon Postcard Comp

This year's Arvon Postcard Competition asks that you fill a postcard with thoughts on where you write. A writing place, or space. It gives the examples of Roald Dahl, who wrote in a shed at the bottom of his garden, and poet Simon Armitage who admits he writes 'in his head'. Then of course there's the old cliché of writers whiling away the hours by candlelight in the attic or garret, stooped over a painstakingly-quilled manuscript.

So I got to thinking, where do I write? First answer that comes to mind is nowhere in particular. Anywhere. Everywhere. The advent of a laptop helps vary the places. Before I owned such a modern messiah machine, I too, somewhat like those writers  of old, was stooped over an old PC at a cramped desk, which caused chronic backache and occasional squinting at the monitor nearly a mile in front of me. It meant putting myself physically into this uncomfortable space before I could start to write. Soon got over that though with my acquisition of a portable scribe.  Now I could write anywhere. 

But I never had a special particular place.  I wrote wherever, whenever the feeling struck me. As long as I was in front of my blue screen, it didn't matter where I was, it was more a matter of where my head was. More to do with finding a space between headspace and heartspace, where the twain would meet, but at the same time a blank space where things could spark and flare. 

So in realising that, this is what I came up with: (my entry as a matter of fact!)

I write in a sky space in my head. 
A pure blue space. Clear and translucent, with all cumulus clouds of confusion sieved away into insignificance. Cerulean, turquoise, lapis, aquamarine; all shades of imagination’s ink.
I navigate the spaces of my mind until I find that blue sky room. Down through the bare hallway of routine, past the parlour of contemplation, brushing my way through cobwebs of mind clutter and into this grand vista of space where the wind blows on my face and everything is illuminated with inspiration. 
I write everywhere and anywhere here. While walking, watching TV, eating, travelling, sleeping. My blue gaze is serene as I write in fine spidery mind ink. Blank even. But then I’m following dictation that mists surroundings into blank pages. In the middle of ordinary everyday fare, words whirl and swirl in my head, so fine and fragile and quick, like flickering dragonflies. Even while talking to someone, the blue globes of my irises glaze over glassy and I am in that place again, where life is put on pause on a blue screen just long enough for me to describe it.
I cross the portal to this blue sky space, somewhere between reality and imagination, between head and heart, as ethereal as clouds, as real as light. There I stay, huddled and lit with anticipation in gas-flame blue surroundings, open and alert, waiting to greet the words as they arrive like long-awaited visitors. Waiting to accept them, write them into being, into meaning, with ribboned strokes of blue biro ink. 

For those of you interested in this competition, check out the website:

~ Siobhán.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Poetry - A Defence Of

Did I mention I'm a poetry fan? Love reading it, love writing it!
I mention poetry at the risk of alienating some readers... Why is it exactly that the word 'poetry' inspires such negative and repulsive reactions from most people?  And why does it seem to conjure up pictures of grey-haired tweed-suit-wearing old guys posing and pottering around, paper and quill in hand,  spouting things like 'thee' and 'thou 'and 'oh come ye'? Yeah right. That was poetry decades ago.  Mostly nonsense dribbled out in la-de-da  language, aimed at the elite of society, not like poetry today.
Nowadays poetry is anything but boring. It is passionate and powerful. It is intense and real, like a smack in the face.  It packs a punch. It stuns us with significance. Why do I personally love poetry? Because it is the language of emotion. Pure and undiluted and unadulterated emotion. Like a shot of straight-up whiskey that burns on its way down.  Intoxicating. 

More than just words on a page, poetry is rather to do with a state of being. A state of awareness. It's about finding rhyme and reason in life, finding the rhyme in the reason, and the reason in the rhyme! It's about being open. Open to beauty and wonder and those everday incognito gifts. It's about being grateful and sharing that gratefulness. It's about rediscovering truth; truth which gets lost in the illusions of routine, of materialistic madness, the emptiness of day-to-day ennui and mundanity. Poetry is like a light which flashes through all of this, illuminating and defining what is important.  And most of all, poetry is about love. About falling in love with the world and then expressing that love to the world. 

My love affair with poetry did not begin in school, but by stumbling on a few poems post-university that really described life to a tee. They were truth that couldn't be found anywhere else. You know when you have a dilemma and you spend hours on the phone chatting with a friend trying to understand and analyse, mulling it over and over in the mill of your mind, but to no avail? Well, check out a poem instead. A poem can have all the answers. It gets what you're going through. Sheds light on it. Illuminates it even into a state a grace, a state of beauty. Poetry is understanding. Poetry is life held up to a light and examined. Poetry is wisdom. 

And, there's something for everybody in modern poetry. Whether it's short and sweet haikus, comedy shorts, performance pub power poetry, conversational language; poems not only dedicated to love and nature and death, but apples and coffee and red wheelbarrows and tuna-fish and kites and bees and rainy days and making tea for a lover.
So why don't we all love it? Why don't we use it more? Because we've been scarred by memories of having it force-fed to us at school, unrelative lyrics about swanning around in nature and stuffy stiff-upper-lip language? Because it was something to learn by rote until every line of it became nothing only mind-numbing pain and pressure? Or because we think it's naf? Something for snobs, old-fashioned loonies, or boring old bookworms? Never imagining that young people could love it. That it could speak directly to teenagers' thudding over-drive hearts or young people on the cusp of adulthood, or anybody with a pulse for that matter. Anybody who ever loved, or lost, or got beat down, or experienced loss, or confusion. or just wondered what the hell am I doing on this planet! Poetry is for everyone!

I always ask young poetry-loathers whether they like music. Of course, they all answer with a resounding YES - music is the religion of teenagers after all. Well then, I reply, you must like poetry because songs are just poems put to music. Look at the lyrics. Look at the rhyme. The metaphors. The grand emotion behind them. All the same ingredients as poems! They look bemused, but finally succumb to agreement when I demand that they look at their favourite artist's lyrics for homework. Ask people who the greatest poet of our time is and most of them would answer Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan man! Not Shakespeare. Not Yeats or Keats or The Beats. A poet is someone who can relate to all and speak for all in a language that's alive to the point it crackles with electricity.

So here, ladies and gentlemen, I'm gonna act as a kind of poetry ambassador... unveiling wonders of poems to you in a very ta-da! shock-and-gasp-manner. Reading a poem a day is like taking a vitamin for the soul. So I'd like to use this space to share some of my favourite poems and only hope that they will become to you what they are to me. I have so many favourite poems and poets it's hard to know where to begin....but I think I'll start with the famous American poet, EE Cummings.

What I love about EE Cummings is how alive his poems are.  Living breathing entities. This is largely due to how he daringly flaunts traditional poetic aspects of form and structure and plays around with language in such an expressive way. He really is the poet flying the banner for having fun with language. Language can do so many things, can be frolicked with and flaunted in so many different ways to express our wide variety of ever-in-flux emotions and EE captures this amazingly. He's one of the most original, exciting and exhilarating poets of modern times and 'i thank You God for most this amazing' is  one of his most joyous reflections on being alive. It celebrates the beauty of being alive and gratefulness for life.
The ultimate poet of blue skies and sunshine and springtime green!


i thank You God for most this amazing - ee cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

First Blog is Born

My first ever blog!

Have been avoiding and postponing, procrastinating and questioning this moment, but now it's here. Now I finally put cursor to screen and enter. Now my first blog is finally born.  

To introduce myself, I'm a writer. Well, wishing to be. A wannabe writer. A writer-in-waiting. A rampant writer and a reluctant writer. A secret writer. An under-cover writer. I've been writing ever since I can remember; on feint-ruled copybooks with red margins, on A4 pages with red-biro grades, diaries, computer screens, journals, printed pages, scribbles and poems and columns and other lilttle bric-a-brac here-and-there titbits. All because I love words. Because I love what they can do. 

Have been mulling a long time over the ever pondersome question whether 'to blog or not to blog'? And have  finally decided to take the leap of yes. So here I am. To blog and be heard! Blog and let my words glare on other's screens! Blog and bare all!  Blog to unblock! May take me a while to tackle the transition between white-page wondering and blank succumbing to pen ink, to this surreal space where each word is scribed permanently in black font. Where my thoughts are random rapid-fire and may materialise as ramblings. Where I can't scrunch the page into submission or file away under closed. Yes, here I am, out in the open, out of the closet of writing, and into the great big arena of cyber-space. 

And after much labouring over the title, a blog is born! Relating to Virginia Woolf's book on writing of course, 'A Room of One's Own', namely about finding a space for one's own writing, both physical and metaphorical. Not a particular mad fan of Ms Woolf, but most definitely of her idea. 

(Apologies in advance for my grammatical errors; although I'm an English graduate, I have a tendency to twist and flaunt basic grammar rules....Also for my ever-changing fonts. It seems some mischievous computer sprite has made its home in my hardrive and delights in flipping fonts chaotically! Also, for my lack of technical prowess; site design is not my be all and end all, hence the lack of elaborate background designs, colour changes and perfect photo pasting. I may be a dab hand at words, but not at embellishing their stage backdrop!)

And so, I begin. Welcome to my blog. A space for musings and random ramblings and rants and poetic pondering, that I hope will appeal to some out there.
Thanks for reading,