Writing Out the Storm (With Pen and Paper)

Posted on Updated on

I had an upsetting experience at work today – doubly upsetting because I was at fault – and I need to write it out.

Yes, write not ride.

Some people let their emotional storms blow themselves out. Alas, I’m not so stoic. When troubled I have an urge to put pen to paper, and I wonder why.

Does writing help me learn my lesson, like copying out lines does at school?

Is it a self-imposed punishment, the page being a paper voodoo doll I prick with my pen to inflict pain on myself?

Or do I write to purge myself of evil emotions, in a kind of ritualistic ink-letting?

Your guess is as good as mine. One thing is true: when the turbulent toss of my handwriting has subsided, the cool calm clear blue lines of the page will remain, and the storm will have passed.

more d12d
about de author
[Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay]

Signature Moves (Authors and Their Autographs)

Posted on Updated on

I’ve been writing – my signature not my novel.

Too many writers, I’m told, suffer from autograph-induced RSI, all because they didn’t simplify their signatures before stardom arrived.

Not I.

At the start of the session my head spun and my arm ached; signing my name was like clinging to a roller-coaster. By its end, though – well, more of that in a minute.

Some novelists made the move early on. Hemingway’s autograph morphed into cross-hairs, while Jonathan Franzen flattened his out so he now signs with a stroke.

Here’s food for thought: we’re told to sign on the dotted line but what if one’s signature is a dotted line?

I’ve always wanted to write about a character who forges his own signature. Some kind of murder mystery?

My new autograph looks like an arrow. The only way is up now that I’ve streamlined my signature.

more on a similar subject
more d12d

Frankly, My Dear (I Do Give a Damn)

Posted on Updated on

Here’s the thing about writing a novel. No-one will care if I do it.

I mean, who reads novels these days? Hardly anyone I know. A couple of my colleagues maybe, none of my mates, a precious few friends and family. That’s not many folks.

Of course if I write something that sells, then people I don’t know might care. But what’s the good of that? As the least famous Churchill (Charles, the poet) wrote, ‘Fame/is nothing but an empty name’.

But why do I even care if nobody cares?

Because I’m human and humans crave unconditional love.

‘Growing up involves accepting that we’re not as special as we thought,’ Nick Hornby once said. ‘But artists have to keep that feeling alive.’

Come to think of it, I do know someone who will care if I write a novel.

And that someone is me.

more d12d
about de author

They Called Him Herman (Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’)

Posted on Updated on

‘Call me Ishmael.’

So begins Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s classic tale of whales and whaling, first published in America on this day back in 1851.

The brevity of the book’s opening line is misleading: Melville’s masterpiece has 135 chapters and more than 500 pages, making it a whale-sized story by anyone’s standards.

Was the novel the ‘draft of a draft’, as Melville himself supposedly suggested? If so, his editor ought to have taken a harpoon to the text.

Melville had a tough time as a kid. Money was short, his eyesight was weakened by fever, and the lad had trouble impressing his father, who described him as being ‘backward in speech and somewhat slow in comprehension’.


Melville’s success might be attributed, in part, to an early lucky break. Unlike his brother, who wrote nothing, he was not given the name Gansevoort. He was called Herman instead.

more d12d
about de author

‘Old Things Are Awesome’ (An Interview with Harmony Higgins)

Posted on Updated on

Me:    When did you start writing?
She:   When I was seven I wrote reviews of my mother’s meals and stuck them on the fridge.
Me:    How did they rate?
She:   Poorly. Especially the steak tartare.
Me:    I meant your reviews. Why historical fiction?
She:   So much of it is set in the past. Old things are awesome.
Me:    What’s the oldest thing you own?
She:   A brooch worn by Henrietta Stubbs.
Me:    Who’s she?
She:   Don’t know. She sounds ancient though.
Me:    Do you do much research?
She:   Loads. I use it as mulch on the garden.
Me:    What are your hopes and dreams?
She:   To write the perfect novel. Again. I’m joking, of course.
Me:    Of course.
She:   I’d like to become a yoga instructor.
Me:    Good luck with that.
She:   Thanks.

Riding the Waves and The Crestfallen Tailor are published by Penury.

more d12d
about de author

Choking on Words (Writing, A Dangerous Obsession)

Posted on Updated on

So, you thought writing was to be your salvation, that it would save you from obscurity. But what if instead the opposite is true? What if your obsession has got you ‘entrapped’ (as the novelist, Amit Chaudhuri, puts it) and it’s stifling your life?

Such were my thoughts yesterday.

Picture the scene: I’m wheezing at my desk, suffering from a sudden attack of hay-fever. As I search for my asthma spray, a colleague jokes about shoving a pen down my throat to open the airway.

The wheezing soon went – the spray worked its magic – but the image of me choking on a pen stayed on.

Writing has been caught in my throat for a long, long while. Perhaps it’s time I swallowed my pride and gave the game away or coughed the thing up, took a deep breath and got on with the job.

more d12d
about de author

Plotting It Out (To Plan or Not to Plan)

Posted on Updated on

I have a vision. Like Nature in the poem by Burns, my ‘eye [is] intent on all the mazy plan’.

It wouldn’t be my first. I’ve had more five-year plans than the Soviet Union did under Stalin, one every few months.

But does a writer even need a plan?

It probably doesn’t hurt to have one. Planning helps you identify goals, set your direction and keep things in perspective – good practices for anyone, I guess.

And yet writing is a notoriously unpredictable endeavour. Markets evolve, opportunities arise unexpectedly, ideas come and go, and our likes and abilities change as we grow. Success can spring from a single manuscript and some luck.

Try planning that!

It’s nice to think that we shape our destinies, though, so I’ll go ahead and make my next plan. That way I can relax and wing it all the way.

more d12d
about de author

Navigating the Unknown (Writers and Mentors)

Posted on Updated on

Today, as I lunched on the waterfront, I overheard a fisherman explain to his mates why the ship in the distance wasn’t coming any closer.

‘It’s waiting for a pilot,’ he said. ‘They can’t come up the river without one.’

Writing is a lot like sailing; any number of authors have navigated unknown waters with the help of an experienced hand.

Allen Ginsberg had William Carlos Williams, the poet. Thornton Wilder had Gertrude Stein, whom he called his ‘toasted ice-cream‘. And Margaret Drabble had her ‘hero‘, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, Doris Lessing.

I’ve only ever had one true writing mentor: the wonderful woman who first encouraged me to write. Since then I’ve been sailing solo, rowing around in circles and running into rocks.

In 1975, an unpiloted ship sank in the River Derwent, having collided with a bridge.

Maybe it’s time I found a mentor.

more d12d
about the author

Colourful Language (The Right Hue for You)

Posted on Updated on

Colour has the power to excite our emotions and yet few of us apply it to our writing.

What hues, then, should you use to maximise your mood while you work?

Denotes passion, desire and love. Give it a go when you’re writing sex scenes and romance.

Evokes harmony and peace. Not for conflict between characters or westerns and war stories. Also best avoided when writing reviews.

Suggests joy and happiness. Perfect for comedy, wisecracks and witty dialogue.

The colour of luxury, power and ambition. Best for historical sagas about kings and queens.

Stands for vulnerability and youth. Use it for that YA novel you’ve been meaning to write.

Denotes death, evil and mystery. Great for crime-writing, tragedy and horror.

Symbolises perfection. Not recommended.

My colour of choice. Calm, logical and intelligent – just like this blog.

Up to the Challenge (All Writing is Good Writing)

Posted on Updated on

Last week I took up the Swinburne Microfiction Challenge: to write five stories in five days in response to five daily word-prompts.

And while I won’t win the prize – one thousand dollars, if you don’t mind – I haven’t come away empty-handed. The exercise has taught me three valuable lessons about me, my stories and literary magazines.

Here’s what I’ve learned about myself: that I’m a craftsman and not an artist. My stories are facile and lack true depth of feeling – that’s take-away number two. And as for literary magazines, I found that their editors favour atmosphere over action.

Sobering stuff. What it means for my writing, I can’t really say.

Having taken the challenge I’ve learned what’s lacking in me and my work: artistry, emotion and atmosphere. What I’m not lacking, though, are the five stories I finished in five days.

I can write!