Words in print

I could open a debate about the relative merits of the printed word and the digital word. But I won’t.

I’ll just say that, for me, nothing quite compares to seeing my own words in the pages of a book, or magazine, or in this case, the Earth Pathways Diary 2016.

I’ve loved using my 2015 diary and am delighted to have my writing in next year’s.  I’ve just received my advance copy this morning and it’s beautiful.

Can’t wait until the week of 29th September 2016 when I will be ‘casually’ showing everyone my words in print on the page.

Progress: unpicking the knot

I’ve written over 3,000 words today.  Mostly just notes, and thoughts to follow up, but still – 3,000 words.  Does it matter?

If I’d only written 100 words, would I be feeling as positive as I do now?  Well, yes.  The point is to make progress.

Over the last few days (weeks, really) I’ve been making progress, but mostly in my head.  Thinking things through, working things out.  It didn’t feel like progress at the time, but now that the words are spilling out of me, I can see that I needed that time of seeming inaction, of stuckness.  Like unpicking a tight knot: there’s a period of time where you pick and pick and nothing seems to give, until eventually you feel that slight loosening that gives you hope.

If I’d written 100 words today, it would still feel like progress.  Because now I have a glimmer of an idea of where I’m going.

Adding up the scribbles

I hadn’t written a word for weeks.  Granted, there were a few scribblings here and there: jottings on the back of a shopping list; scrawled phrases on a post-it; the odd page or two of disjointed notes.  Not real writing.  So I told myself, and I didn’t enjoy the telling.

Then I gathered them all together.  I began to type them up, expand them, string them together.

Um, I still haven’t finished.  The scribbles add up, you see.  They are the writing, quite as much as the hours spent at the desk.  Probably more so, because they aren’t punctuated by long periods of staring into space and reading other people’s words.

And although I’d already learnt that the scribbles add up to something bigger, I was fortunate enough to receive validation from elsewhere in the same week.  Mother’s Milk Books have awarded one of my pieces a Commended in their recent competition.  Cue much rejoicing!

I tell you this because it illustrates the point beautifully.  You see, I remember when I wrote the beginnings of that piece, and it wasn’t at my desk or even in the house.  I was tramping the fields in my wellies, watching the crows wheeling overhead and thinking about circles.  I’ve learnt to keep a tattered notebook and a pencil in my coat pocket on these walks, and I kept stopping and adding another phrase, another image.  What they were going to become I wasn’t sure, but I kept scribbling all the same.  (By the way, it’s always a pencil, never a pen.  Pencils don’t run out or leak in your pocket.)

And those images became a piece I was proud of, a piece that someone else enjoyed.  They were real writing, after all.

Yes, we need time to mould the jottings and the scribblings into their final form, but we can always be writing, wherever we are.  Mud optional.

It’s only words

This year, if I remember nothing else, I will remember this:

It’s only words.

I don’t mean to quote any songs here, and apologise if you’ve now got an earworm you could do without.  But I find it’s easy to build up this writing business into something difficult and serious, when it should be fun.  (For someone who loves to laugh, I can get ever so serious.)

I’m not saying writing’s not important.  But if we tell ourselves too often that it’s important and that what we write (and whether we write) matters, we can end up with brainfreeze as well as earworms.

When I remember that they’re only words, the words seem to flow more easily.

They are not your people

The words I read came from the heart.  Admittedly, they were written a long while ago and never fully polished.  Perhaps they weren’t quite ready for a public airing.  Plus, they were a part of something longer which hadn’t yet been completed either.  And the audience was expecting a fictional story, not a personal essay.

Is that why the words were misunderstood when they were read to an audience?  Is that why the listeners took issue with the philosophy when all they’d been asked for was a view on the writing itself?  Is that why the whole thing was so painful and annoying?

I learned three things that evening:

  • Make sure the work that you share with others is work that you are truly happy with.  If you have none ready, share nothing and keep writing.
  • If they don’t understand what you’re saying, check whether you’ve written what you thought you had.  What’s clear in your heart and head may not be clear on paper.  It doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
  • If you stand by your writing and your words, then those who didn’t understand are not your people.  They can be your friends, but they are not your audience.

Positive thinking and how to begin

Sometimes when you really read that inspiring quote, you find it doesn’t quite give the message you thought it did.  You know words are my thing – they have to be right!

Here’s one I found recently:

“If you must begin, then go all the way, because if you begin and quit, the unfinished business you have left behind you begins to haunt you all the time.”(Trungpa Rinpoche – I read this as an extract in a book that wasn’t the original source, so can’t tell you anything about him I’m afraid. But I’ve been pondering his words.)

At first I thought, “yes – encouragement to do, to move forward, to simply begin.”  And I think that’s probably how it was meant.  But then I read it again and it sounds a little threatening.  Surely, if unfinished business comes back to haunt you, it’s safer to not begin at all?  The advice sounds rather like we should only begin if we’re absolutely sure we can finish what we start – and how many of us can be sure of that?

But we do like to be sure, don’t we?  We want to know where we’re going before we set out.  Not only that, we want to know exactly how we’re going to get there.  So often we hear or read the advice (attributed to Laurence J Peter), “if you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

Maybe.  But somewhere else might turn out to be better!  And what happened to simply enjoying the journey?  Surely it’s better to just begin – to take that single step, write that first paragraph, pick up that piece of clay – and enjoy the adventure of the journey, rather than to sit and wait until every piece is meticulously planned?  Where’s the magic in that?

And, speaking of magic, here’s a much more uplifting piece of advice about beginnings which I think we should all follow, today:

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
P.S. As an aside, that final quotation is often attributed to Goethe, but in looking it up just now to make sure I’d got it right, I discovered that he sort of wrote it, but mostly didn’t.  (I wouldn’t know; I’ve never read anything by Goethe any more than I’ve read Socrates.  I just like a good turn of phrase.)  Go here and here if you’re interested.