The Coronavirus Pandemic: Recording Your Everyday Experience

photo of person holding cup
Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

 

Hello!

I felt like my last post was a bit self indulgent and pity party-ish. so to make myself feel better, I thought I’d write something that deals directly with the COVID-19, Coronavirus Pandemic and the importance of recording the everyday.

I’m a journal writer; a diary keeper, I have recorded my everyday life on and off since I was about nine years old. There are whole years in which I didn’t record anything, and although I aim to write a page in my journal every day, this doesn’t always work out. First rule of journal club is self forgiveness, if you were wondering. If you make it a chore you won’t stick to it, so don’t make it into a chore.

Why are journals and diaries important?

History is written by the people in charge. This isn’t necessarily because their opinion or their experiences are the most important, it’s because the official documents are the documents that are recorded, protected and preserved. This means we generally have a good idea about what happens in terms of significant events where dates, government policies even high ranking option is concerned, but without first hand, primary sources from ordinary people, we don’t know what their history is.

The novel I am currently working on is historical fiction and I can’t tell you the number of times I have wished that my character had kept a diary, or written more detailed letters. I would have loved to have known how world events affected her and the ordinary folk who were living at that time.

Yes, social media is recording everything we are doing, but is that an accurate recording of how the world is right now? Who knows if twitter and Facebook will even be accessible in the future, and do we really want to base our opinion of historical events on what we put in out tweets? Most of mine are funny videos of cats or, where instagram is concerned, pictures of my phenomenal cookery skills.

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You may have noticed that we are living through a historic period in history. It’s a weird concept because we can’t see how that will be seen from the telescopic perspective of the future, all we know now is that huge changes are occurring such as we have never seen before and we are the people that are in the middle of these changes, living through them.

Your story, your voice and your experience, whatever that is, is a valid one and one that should be recorded for yourself, for your family and possibly even for history. Before you get your long lost diary out and start Dear Diarying, here are a few tips for recording the Coronavirus pandemic through your own eyes:

  1. Write for yourself, not for others. Abandon the idea that you are writing for someone in the future who will use your diary as a primary resource to define the era. That isn’t to say you can’t write for or to your children or grandchildren. But when we write as if someone we don’t know is going to read what we are writing, we tend to edit out bits of our lives (she drinks how much gin?!!) and assume a voice that is perhaps more formal than the way we actually speak. Your voice is valid, your gin consumption may well be an accurate representation of the sort of stress that this point in history is putting you under, or it may be that you really like gin. That’s ok too.
  2. Don’t just focus on presenting the facts in prose. Try capturing the day in a daily poem; an English haiku perhaps or something else impressionistic and short. Poetry is a translation tool which allows us to capture a lot of the personal emotion. Filtering the days we are living in through our own creative lens is important.
  3. Don’t just write out what’s in the papers. Try to think in terms of personal events rather than global events. By that I mean, it’s fine to record how you feel about the terrible situation in Spain, or how nervous the increased police presence being recorded in the papers is making you, but don’t record the headlines, the news. That’s already being recorded, in the papers. The best thing about journals and diaries is their ability to record personal thoughts and feelings; what is happening to you directly in your own life, the impact that global events are having on you specifically.
  4. If you do want to write about the political situation, keep it personal. What are your opinions on how the pandemic is being managed, who did you vote for in the last election, would they still have your vote? How do you feel about politicians becoming sick and being taken to hospital? The people at the top are shaping the lives of ordinary everyday people underneath them, how do you feel about their guidance?
  5. Record the effect on those in your immediate surroundings. What is happening within your home? What are you eating, what are you drinking, how are your neighbours coping? How is the sense of community in your neck of the woods? How are you communicating?
  6. Remember to put the differences you are seeing in context. People looking back will not necessarily know what the ‘normal’ state of affairs was, they might not know what sort of things you ate normally or what was stocked in supermarkets, so remember to compare and contrast, so that when you or your family look back in twenty years time when all food is in pill form you’ll be able to reminisce about lentil and butternut squash shepherd pie (see above. Delicious)
  7. Don’t put pressure on yourself to record EVERYTHING. You can’t. I tend to set myself one page a day, no more or less. It is a good way of ensuring you pick out the bits that are important to you. You could even record a single hour of the day, every day, and just keep it as that.
  8. Don’t forget to record the natural world. Everything that is happening is also impacting on the natural world. What have you noticed in your garden, or in the parks now that there is less traffic and less pollution?

 

Keeping a journal or diary is an excellent way of transporting the stuff that is in your head into a nice safe book, something that can be closed at the end of the day, so it’s very beneficial for mental health, something we could all do with looking after at the minute. Why not have a go and let me know how you get on?

 

Stay safe

 

X

 

 

Extraordinary Times call For…

opened-book-near-ceramic-mug-176103

…whatever is right for you.

For some of us, this means carrying on as near to normal as possible. I work from home anyway and I am self employed, the pandemic has caused a big chunk of lost earnings in the form of festival bookings and workshop bookings, but thankfully most of my ‘bread and butter work’ is done from my home, online. I am still running my online workshops which, touch wood, even in a market in which everyone is now teaching online out of necessity, still appear to be popular. I am still mentoring writers. Not much, then, has changed in my working life, except my husband who is also working from home now, is putting me to shame with his strict routine and enthusiasm. I have seen a version of him, the work version, that I haven’t really seen before. Work-Husband is a very slick, confident person who ‘gets things done’ and is keen to motivate his staff.  He has gone to great lengths to make sure his staff and their jobs are secure, that they are safe. I’m very proud of him. However, he is making me look like an utter slob. Last week the computer went mad while he was trying to work on it: it wouldn’t stop writing FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF and I was able to diagnose it immediately as a crumb stuck in one of the key pads, as this happened to me a lot. “You eat over the keyboard?” he asked, incredulous, and suddenly I realised that yes, yes I do, regularly, while still in my PJs. Some days I can’t remember if I’ve brushed my hair or washed my face. I am the slob writer cliché when I wanted to be a smart writer in her lovely office cliché. I am going to make a real effort to be a bit more professional from now on. I love that my husband is here, it’s so lovely to have someone to talk to, and to share in the little details that are part of my world.

For the first week or so of these strange times I did have a little meltdown – my play was cancelled the day before I was going down for the final preparations. It was very disappointing. But very understandable, and then I watched the festivals I had secured paid reading slots at cancelling one after the other and the festivals at which I was running workshops, workshops which were already fully booked, cancelling.  And my husband’s work took a sudden dive (the company my husband works for print exam papers, so you can imagine the very sudden drop in work when exams were no longer needed) and although the company is robust, it won’t stay robust forever, like most places there will be redundancies and who knows how far away that is.

I stepped back a bit, because I just felt suddenly as if everything was completely pointless. I did some bits and pieces in the garden, got used to the new normal as my neighbours took advantage of family time and good weather in the garden, and DIY projects and playing games and drinking and eating outside in the good weather and what have you. I will admit it did feel like being on the outside looking in, as I don’t have a family, and then felt I couldn’t just sit in the garden with my tea and my laptop to work. Children will be children. And these are strange times in which everyone is worried about their families and the awful fear of them dying. At least I don’t have to worry about my children dying in the pandemic, on account of my daughter being dead and me having no other children. But I’ve still got an immunocompromised mum to worry about and family members with severe asthma too, who work in the health services. There’s a whole mix of emotions and difficulties for everyone and we can’t ever know what’s going on in other people’s lives.

We are keen to make sure my mother in law who is far away in Derby is supported. My husband is an only child, and she, and my husband, suffered the loss of her brother, our beloved Uncle Rod, who had been beaten so severely by robbers at his home in South Africa that he later died of his injuries. That was a big loss in their lives, in our lives and horrible, horrible circumstances. Rod wouldn’t have hurt a fly, he was gentle and loving and welcomed me into the family. Always ready with a glass of wine and a hug, was Rod, and we will miss him immensely. It’s hard not to be able to get to the midlands and support my mother in law directly with this huge loss, and then also in the pandemic, as she’s in her mid seventies and we don’t want her going out. But I’m pleased that her neighbours are rallying round and she still has her Virgin wine delivery, which is something I wish I had if I’m honest.

For some people, coping with the lockdown and the general anxiety and the watching and waiting will mean finding ways to take control, to fill the time with plans and projects. NaPoWriMo couldn’t have come at a better time for those people, and the people on my course are even more enthusiastic than usual. I have a very pleasant two hours on a morning reading their work and commenting and checking in on them every single day, and it is genuinely one of the highlights of the day. At the beginning of April I decided to take a facebook break, except for, obviously running the closed FB groups for the course, and also occasionally posting in my Facebook Author Page. I have a lovely community of friends on Facebook, but right now it feels quite oppressive there, and it makes me a bit anxious. I decided to have a look at what is important to me at the minute and started to factor into my planner not just some complete social media free days, but days in which I could work on my own writing. I have been working on my novel, and have made huge progress with it this week. It’s slow going as it’s historical fiction and needs a lot of research, but the research is wonderfully absorbing, and I am very much enjoying disappearing into my characters and becoming other people. I also started working on a new pamphlet this week, using NaPoWriMo to kick off the poems and make some notes.

And if that wasn’t enough to keep me occupied, I am  judging the Paper Swans Single Poem Competition and would LOVE to see your poems, so get submitting!

My big message this week, then, is to not worry about what the right thing to do is at the moment. Especially when it comes to writing, even if you are normally working from home, this will have an impact on you and your work. This is unprecedented, these are extraordinary times, there’s no right or wrong way to behave. And there is always going to be non pandemic stuff going on underneath the obvious worry, inconvenience and stress.

This week I ended up turning to old friends on Fertility Friends where I knew I’d find solid support. I’m worried about the pandemic, of course, but I’m also quite upset that on what would have been her tenth birthday, a big milestone, I will now not be able to spend time at my daughter’s grave. We won’t be able to partake in the rituals that are part of our grief, part of us saying out loud ‘you are not forgotten‘ . We will still do something together at home, but there will be no gifts for her on the grave, there will be no flowers or the ritual tidying of her grave site (which must just look awful right now as I can’t get up to tend to it) and it is unsettling. This year I had hoped to do something special, because ten is such an age, isn’t it. Double figures. Such a long time and yet, no time at all. Not being able to do that has left me feeling quite emptied out and generally low about it. I will write her poem, as I do every year, and I will remember her, but all the physical stuff, which I find soothing and important as a demonstration of our love for her, non of that will happen. It seems such a small thing to complain about, certainly where survival and caring for people and not travelling etc is involved it is insignificant, non essential to visit her grave. But it is essential for my heart. Her birthday will be swallowed up by this and I fret about her being forgotten. I can still fret about that and feel compassion for those who are being directly effected by the extreme worry of the pandemic. The two are not mutually exclusive, and that’s something to remember: it’s ok to still have other worries, it’s OK to grieve for other stuff and to feel sad about cancelled plans and changes to your life.

These are small things, in the grand scheme. We are healthy, we are in no immediate danger, we have a simple but cozy home and quiet areas to walk and we have each other, and I am loving having my husband here right now. Perhaps this will end up being something to treasure, in a strange way. My heart goes out to the people who are facing danger, those putting their lives at risk, those with serious health conditions, those who are worrying about their loved ones.

Thank you to EVERYONE in the NHS, and a big shout out to my ex colleagues woking in the labs, I applaud you.

Whatever you choose to do, whether it is PJs 24/7 and Netflix in a drip, or business as usual, dressed to the nines and with rigid plans in place, do it because it is what works for you, not because you think you should. I shall be back in a week or so to launch the next online course for May, I hope you’ll join me then.

 

Stay safe

 

x

 

For Mother’s Day

shallow focus photo of pink ceramic roses
Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush on Pexels.com

 

Mexico, 2014

Wendy Pratt 

It is like saying goodbye again.

This is the longest I’ve been away from her

since she was delivered like a hot brick

into my husband’s arms.

 

We are flying from four years

of investigating her death. I think

even the turquoise of the Caribbean

can’t bring me back from the tiredness.

 

But I calm to the white sand, the tiny shells, so similar,

so different to the ones on Filey bay. I watch

the diamond shadow of a sting ray, gliding gently in its world.

I climb the hot stone ruins of Tulum,

wade the warm sea, swim in cenote,

drink margaritas on the beach.

 

I make an offering to the Mayan Gods; have her name set

in Mayan silver, hieroglyphics on a piece of black stone,

and I wear it round my neck, watch it glitter as I swim in the perfect blue,

feeling guilty I can’t dandle her legs in the sea.

 

 

New Online Creative Writing Course for April: Staying in and Writing it Out

blank paper with pen and coffee cup on wood table
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

 

It’s that time of the month again! Time to launch April’s online writing course, this time with a few changes.

Unless you are already living as a hermit in a cave, you will be aware of the current pandemic of Coronavirus, COVID-19, which is forcing events to shut, book launches to be postponed, festivals to be put on hold and regular meetings and gatherings to be temporarily closed. Everybody knows that public health must come first, but it doesn’t stop it from being a little bit gutting, especially for people already isolated, who rely on getting to small gatherings to stay sane! From an economic prospective it’s a bit of a disaster too, especially for the self employed and those in the creative arts who rely on community engagement for their living.

Keeping this in mind, the fact that more people will be worried about their income and there will be less money for entertainment, I’ve decided for this course to have one single low price of £20. You can still sponsor a place for someone who is going to be lacking that £20, and please, please do, if you can!

Because I am expecting a larger group than normal I am briefly reverting back to a closed facebook group model, rather than the closed website model until I have ironed out the glitches in the new model (it does look like a new bells and whistles website will have to be created specifically for the course now, which is no bad thing, but will have to wait until the financial fall out of Covid19 is over and done with!) which means no live chat nights on this one, which is a shame. However, this course is aimed at generosity, community spirit, being kind to one another and sharing our stories around a virtual fireplace, and every course I have run so far has had that in bucketloads, thanks to the fantastic, warm groups – each one slightly different – that have taken the courses so far.

What’s ‘Staying in and Writing it Out’ about?

The course will begin on 1st of April 2020  and end on 30th April 2020. Over the four weeks we’ll be looking at what it is to be a society, what it is to be a human animal, we’ll be sharing experiences of testing times, survival and the kindness of society, but more than that, we’ll be looking at nature, enjoying the small things that life has to offer, we’ll be enjoying the start of spring and sharing the joys we have experienced and the pain too. We’l be writing poems, creative non fiction and flash fiction, and we will be sharing a sense of purpose and community, combating loneliness and remembering the good things, the kindnesses of life.

How Will It Work?

Once you have signed up, you’ll receive a welcome note and a link to the closed Facebook group. You do not have to join the facebook group at all, lots of people don’t, but in my experience it has been a real bonding experience – open, friendly and encouraging. Within the closed group people are able to share their work, and post comments on the work of others. You can join and not post anything, or you can lurk quietly if you want. Everyone is different, and what creates anxiety for one person may nt for another, so there is no pressure. This is a no pressure environment where the purpose is to get writing, not necessarily to produce a finished piece of work. You’ll be sent a set of notes exploring the week’s theme at the beginning of each week, and every day you will be sent a new writing prompt aimed at stimulating your creativity and getting you to set pen to paper, fingers to keyboards and get writing in a supportive and encouraging environment. The courses are suitable to all levels of experience, from complete newbies to experienced writers wanting a little motivation.

How Do I Sign Up?

Simply go over to my shop and pay the fee. If the email that you want your materials and prompts sent to is different to your PayPal address, drop me a line at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com. Once you’ve paid you’ll receive your welcome letter and facebook group link and you will receive your first set of notes and first prompt on April 1st, direct to your inbox. That’s it.

Places are limited, and I am expecting this course to be very busy, so please don’t wait and be disappointed!

I look forward to having you on board!

 

 

Coping with Rejection: How Not to be Your Own Judge, Jury and Executioner

 

man showing distress
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I love a good stock photo. Look at this guy, he has evidently been turned down by the Arts Council for the seventh time and now has to find a way to fund the project he’s been planning for a year. Or perhaps he’s just had the manuscript he’s spent six years writing turned down by the publisher he felt it was a perfect fit for. Or maybe the poems he thought were his best, his absolute best, the best thing he’s ever written, have been turned down and returned to him with generic rejection in which they got his name wrong and called him Farty rather than Marty.

Oh, the pain.

I have now been rejected more times than I can shake a stick at, and readers, I can really shake a stick.

People will tell you that rejection is just part and parcel of being a writer and it definitely is, but saying it’s ‘just’ anything is a way of dismissing the natural emotional reaction to it. Yes, it happens all the time, more than you can imagine, and yes, it hurts every time, to a lesser or greater amount.

Four Things to Remember When You Get the Inevitable Rejection

  1. It’s normal, natural and absolutely necessary to feel disappointed. It’s how our complex human brains sort stuff out – this is how the brain compartmentalises stuff that happens to us, allowing us to deal with things and move on, it’s a process- It’s ok to feel crap, it’s completely natural to feel upset. You have already imagined winning/being accepted and, especially if you are a professional writer, you will have planned your future life/work around the potentially positive news. The trick is not to fight it, accept that you’re going to be upset and make plans to manage that: take a few days off social media, pour your heart out in a private facebook group where you know that others will have experienced the same, write it all out, including all the jealousy, anger and resentment, the anger at yourself, the fears of never getting anywhere, in your journal. Have a duvet day, ice cream, pizza. Allow yourself the little grief that comes with someone telling you that, essentially, they thought someone else was better. Allocate a day or two of down time, and then get back onto the horse. That’s the important bit. I will say this, it is harder to do this at the beginning of your career when you haven’t had many successes. But you will have successes. You will use them as the journey markers that let you know that you are on a journey, and where you are going.  There are more pressures, different pressures, the further you advance in your career, but when I think back to my very first reactions, I recognise how important those tiny successes were:  a long listing in a comp, an acceptance to an online magazine, a bit of feedback from a publisher telling me they saw something in my work – they helped to keep me putting myself forward.
  2. YOU are not being rejected, your work is. Focus on having an open mind when it comes to your own work. Recognise that the personal opinion of the judge/editor/funding body counts for quite a lot, but also don’t be afraid to ask for any feedback that can be offered. It might be that you got very very close to your goal, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask. They might have advice that you can use to improve. Be open to it, no one is perfect. Obviously there will be times when the person who has made the judgement just doesn’t have the time to offer feedback, don’t bug them for it, accept it, it’s just the way it is. Recognise that, even though your words might well be very personal, might be about personal issues, the rejection is not personal and is much more likely to be about budget, space or theme.
  3. Do not judge your entire life by the rejection. I need to remember this one. Similarly, do not judge your entire body of work by one rejection. With any project you will find that you become absorbed in it, and it becomes much bigger to you than it actually is in real life. So when the rejection comes, it feels like everything you see and know, everything about YOU is being rejected. It isn’t, you need to step back and do something else until the perspective resets itself. Stop writing for a bit, down tools, take up painting, go walking. Then come back to it with fresh eyes.
  4. Every single writer has been rejected at some point. Every single one, even the ones doing the judging. You are not alone.

 

My Rejections

Last week I was rejected for the scholarship I needed to be able to accept my place at the University of York to do my PhD. I’d been working on the application to both the university and the scholarship board for roughly six months. I’d put such a lot of work into it, and when the rejection came, unexpectedly early, I was quite crushed. It was a big one. I took my own advice and went and hid from the world for a couple of days. Then I forced myself to seek any feedback they had to offer. This was particularly hard as I felt skinless, like I had no armour to deal with more bad news, or someone telling me, confirming to me the underlying suspicion that I am not good enough, that I’m not the right fit, not clever enough, too working class, not likeable, that I will never really belong.

It turned out they had thought very highly of me as a candidate and of my project, but were very limited by the budget. Other people had been more successful than me, but I hadn’t, after all, had my project chucked in the bin with a snigger. It changed how I felt about it. They asked me to reapply next year, which I will do. And I’ll not forget the lesson learned here, which is to not rely solely on the voice in my head which constantly tells me the most awful stuff about myself. On the flip side, last week I had an acceptance. The rehearsed reading of my play To Be Undone is to be supported by the Arts Council England which pleases me so much. If you’ve followed my blog you’ll know how many times I have applied. It’s a tiny grant, enough for me to do some promotion and to actually travel down to Huddersfield to be involved with the rehearsals, but it has made a huge difference to me, and means I can focus solely on being a writer for a few days. Look out for more information in the new shiny newsletter, which you can sig up for here. The new newsletter will be going out twice a month and includes information on courses I’m running, general news, a few bits of resources and what not and also a free writing prompt to get you writing!

That’s all for now, except to let you know that if you’re near Scarborough you can come and see me read poems about Scarborough at this fantastic event: Rotunda Nights. It’s going to be a lovely, warm friendly gathering with WINE and nibbles.

Thanks for reading!

X

New Online Course, Starting 1st March 2020: Writing in the Blood

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Photograph copyright Wendy Pratt

It’s that time of the month again, when the new course is announced and bookings are open. First, though, I wanted to tell you about some changes that I have made. There will now be no closed facebook page for the online courses, in its place there will be a secret, hidden website which only paid members are invited to join. This is closed to the public and nothing in the group can be shared outside it, making it entirely secure as a space where writers wish to share ongoing work, work which they are hoping may be published at some point. Within the secret invite-only website there will be areas to post your work, which won’t chew your line breaks up, and spaces to comment. There is also a live chat facility, again private and invite-only, where course members will be invited to a weekly discussions on the course themes. I’ve run live chats in the past and my experience is that they are invigorating, fun, and exciting events. I’m very excited to be going into this next phase of the online tutorials and hoping to expand and build on this again in the future.

And so, to the march 2020 course, a band spanking new course which will consist of daily prompts delivered directly to your email and weekly course notes as well as the super shiny new invite only website.

Writing in the Blood

Writing in the Blood is a brand new biology and anatomy based creative writing course, beginning on 1st of march 2020 and ending on the 31st of March 2020. I’ll be putting my biologist hat on to take you through biology based prompts, we’ll be exploring our internal organs, the networks of nerves that keep us feeling, the grey matter of our brains, the blood in our veins. We’ll be think about bacteria, viruses, illnesses, recovery. We’ll be asking ourselves what part the body plays in our emotions, our reactions, how we feel about ageing, the lost youth of smooth skin and lithe bodies. We’ll be talking disability, ability, fitness and the joys of having a body that works, the social pressures and stigmas around bodies that don’t.

As ever, this is a fun course, there is no homework, no pressure to produce anything at all, if you don’t want to, the main aim is that you enjoy the writing. The courses are designed to be safe areas in which people feel at ease and the website will be monitored by myself daily. You might not see me, but I am always about.

This course is suitable for beginners and experienced writers and is aimed at poets, fiction writers and creative non fiction writers. Over the four weeks this course/online workshop will help you reconnect with your body. Each week you will receive a ‘lesson plan’ with a weekly writing focus, resources, writing examples, tips and guidance. You’ll also receive a daily creativity prompt to help stimulate your writing potential. These will be delivered directly to your inbox. as mentioned there will be a private, invite only website, where course attendees can chat, exchange ideas and share work for gentle and constructive criticism.

Because the new secret website is new to me, I am keeping numbers in this group fairly low, so please don’t leave it until the last minute to book a place!

I am so excited to have you join me on the next leg of the journey!

How to Sign Up

I now have a simple payment method in my shop where you can make a payment to sign up. If the email address you want your course materials, and your website invite sent to is different to your PayPal address, let me know by emailing me at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com.

To make things fair, and to make sure that my courses are available to those on lower incomes, I have a tiered pricing system. Details below. And don’t forget, you can sponsor a place for a writer who doesn’t have the money to sign up. What a great  gift that would be! I currently have one sponsored place.

Payment Tiers

For this course, and all future courses, I am bringing in a method of tiered payment, a ‘pay what you can’  method which relies on the honesty of course attendees. There are three payment levels: £20, £40 and £60. There is also the option to sponsor another place at the price level of your choice so that I can support disadvantaged writers.

Why I have given the option to pay more

Lots of previous attendees have told me, during feedback sessions, that they would have paid much more for one of these courses, comparing it to other courses available to them. But at the same time, lots of people have told me they were grateful for the lower cost as it meant they could afford to develop their writing within their own means. I am from a working class background and still live in a working class town. There’s a grey area when it comes to WC folk, and it’s the place where almost everyone I know lives – the place where you are certainly not living in poverty, but you can’t justify retreats, courses or workshops because there is always something else (Christmas, birthdays etc).
It’s my opinion that everyone should have access to exploring their world through the arts, creative writing is my niche and in a world in which the arts are being slowly eroded, where funding is reduced and reduced, I feel I need to do something practical to help people like me, from my background. At the same time, as a working class writer and workshop facilitator, I need to be able to pay my bills and continue doing the things that I have trained for. Hence the option to pay more if you feel you can.
I know from experience how difficult it is to work out which level is right for you, so I have put some guidance together, below. I’ve based my reasoning mainly on the value of £20 in relation to  food and alcohol for some reason:

Sponsored Place – 

If you would need to make a choice between the course and essentials like food and electricity, then you are most likely entitled to a sponsored place.  Get in touch at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com for a chat. I don’t interrogate, this is an honesty system and giving writers a leg up is important.

£20 

If £20 is what you might spend on a takeaway and a bottle of wine, this is probably the tier for you.

£40

If £20 is what you spend on a bottle of wine and a nice bar of chocolate, the forty pound tier sounds about right for you.

£60

If twenty pounds is the amount that you might put into a charity box, or a church collection, then this is probably the tier for you.

YOU CAN SPONSOR A PLACE

Even if you aren’t interested in doing the course, you can still sponsor a place and give a leg up to a writer who has hit hard times and can’t justify the disposable income for a creative writing course. If you ARE doing the course, you can also sponsor an extra place. You might choose to pay £40 for yourself and sponsor a £20 place, you might be an absolute angel and pay £60 and still sponsor a £20 place, you might be a virtual saint and sponsor two £60 places. It’s up to you. Mix and match.

 

What Happens Next

Once you have paid by PayPal (please drop me a line if you have paid in another way, I may miss your payment otherwise) I will use the email provided to invite you to the secret website, I will also use this email address to send a welcome letter to confirm that this email is working.

There might be a slight delay, while I get used to the new website, but you will get your welcome letter straight away (or the next day) confirming your place on the course.

 

Thanks for being a part of this adventure!

Wendy

Rural Writing

photography of mountains under cloudy sky
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

I’ve just got back from an exhilarating dog walk through the tail end of Storm Ciara, or maybe the head end of Storm Dennis, who knows. The lane follows the curve of a stream, which feeds into the river Hertford a few fields over, but you can see that it’s been manipulated at some point, the stream, to meet the requirements of drainage and farm land. In rough weather, when it’s rained a lot, the original river rises in the field, next to it, which once upon a time was a village park and cricket pitch. The old stream is slowed down to puddles of standing water, trying to speak its mother tongue, as if the compulsion to flow the way it has flowed for thousands of years is still strong. Whenever I see it, can see the track of it, the rises of its long gone banks, I think of this poem; Dunt, by Alice Oswald.

There are dozens and dozens of beech trees on my walk, and twisting, ancient hawthorn hedges, and strange rocks which have been used to shore up banks, rocks that have had a previous lives in walls or buildings or maybe something earlier, touching their fingers to the past. On one side of the lane is a sudden hill, which I felt sure was a tumulus when I first moved here, but now I’m not so sure. Either way, it’s terraced with the marks of medieval plough shears, the peaks and troughs catch the evening sun and cast long, spinal shadows at this time of year. The sun sets over it. Currently there are sheep in that field, and the magpies and crows that accompany them, picking the wool off their backs. But not today, today the sheep are sheltering on the other side, out of sight, and the birds are tucked up in hedges and trees. The storm is still raging. Hailstones were being thrown down the main street  as I came down the village – like having ice gravel thrown in your face – and the roar of the wind in the trees was deafening, it made my heart lift in my chest, a sort of thrill and fear at once. And then, after a satisfying, but not long enough walk home there comes the sudden, satisfying click of door and the total stillness within. As I write this, I can hear bins being blown about outside and the skittering of rubbish blowing over tarmac. We are the lucky ones, barely any flooding here. It’s good to be inside and back at my desk.

trees covered with snow
Photo by Markus Bürkle on Pexels.com

 

I’m thinking a lot about how landscape, weather, nature continues to influence my writing of late, with a view to new writing projects for the future. I keep drifting to weather related poems, like Ted Hughe’s very well known Wind and My old favourite Sylvia Plath’s Hard castle Crags. Writers are so drawn to weather, it does something to us. I always come back calm in my heart after being outside walking or even just being in front of a window watching the weather.

This has been a bit of period of self reflection, in general, I feel I’m finally getting chance to do some work on myself.  I am delighted that Poetry Wales are publishing some poems of mine, but even more delighted that they commissioned me to write an article on my process of writing through grief and how that journey has influenced the collections of poetry I have written to date. The Hare and the Witch: Transforming Grief into Poetry is in the next issue, 55.2, and the first with wonderful new editor Jonathon Edwards, you can buy it here. The article caused me to reflect on how much returning to the loss of my daughter has enabled me to focus in on style and composition, but also hone the emotional side of poetry – working to how to make a poem work for other people and not just myself. I enjoyed going through my books, looking for the signposts that are there. It is good to reflect on your work, to look at where you’ve come from, where you are going. Right now, moving forward, I’m trying to reconnect to the things that mean something to me, that are a part of me, and this – living rural, being in the landscape which has been the backdrop for my whole life, the archaeology, the psychogeography- it’s coming through strongly and defiantly and allowing me to uncouple myself and disappear into in that wonderful, trance like state that writing often brings. I’m trying to re-focus, undo the need to strive and succeed and instead be present in the journey that I am on, and aware of the lessons that are there to be learnt, the enjoyment that is to be had here.

This valley that I call home was once the biggest lake in Europe. The lake was created at the end of the last ice age as the glaciers which had carved the valley melted and filled it with water. It took thousands of years for the lake to recede to wet land, bog land and this was eventually drained, like my village stream, to create farmland. In pre-history times it was a site of huge ritual significance, with people’s travelling to be near it. I’ve spent quite a lot of time researching the area, and reconnecting with my childhood memories of digs around the lake site. I’ve found myself thinking in terms of ‘lake people’ and finding that, living where I do, and having lived here all my life, I am a lake person too. This pleases me, somehow validates me, I want to make more of that connection.

There is something meditative about walking out, in the weather, it makes me write. Something perhaps about footfall and language rhythm, that connective part of the brain that comes alive with poetry, that rocking motion that babies in cars dream to, perhaps that is it. Now that I have stepped down as the editor of Dream Catcher, and given up all my other unpaid roles, I find myself, finally, able to place myself into my work in a more thoughtful and less stressful way. I am able to make more connection with the people taking the online courses, something which I’ll be building on, and I have increased my meditation practice and also started to add some daily yoga practice in, though this is less spiritual and reflective and more about undoing the aches and pains of sitting at my desk a lot. I’m hoping to have saved up enough to buy a lap top next month, so I can actually get out and about and change where I write occasionally. I’ve started writing the novel, too, and I need to get out and research some of the historical stuff, which I am so  looking forward to, but I’ll need a good laptop to do that too. All very exciting.

I got some good news last week. I have been offered an unconditional place at the University of York, to do my PhD. It’s a big deal. But I dare not get too excited as I cannot do the PhD without the scholarship, which I applied for at the same time, and which I won’t even know if I’ve made it to the next round with until March. Apparently there are roughly 400 people applying for forty positions across three universities. That’s a lot of competition. I do not know what I am up against, and I know academically that perhaps I am not the strongest candidate, there will be people applying who have gone from GCSEs to A levels, to BA to MA and then into a PhD, full time. And then there’s me whose gone from GCSE to office work, to shop work, to factory work, to more factory work, to lab technician, to part time BSc, to Microbiologist, to OU distance learning BA to distance learning MA, to dog walker, to failed PhD, to freelance writer, to workshop facilitator, to full time, self employed writer. I took the working class route, I took the scenic route and by God, I am glad I did. I have so much life experience and so much determination, but life experience and determination don’t often land you full scholarships and I know I would need support, which is also what this scholarship is offering. If the failed PhD taught me anything, it’s that I would have benefitted from a lot more support, that I wished I’d said more about feeling so working class, so much as if I didn’t fit in, didn’t know the system, wasn’t confident in myself, and I didn’t know what I was and wasn’t supposed to know.  I definitely could have made my feelings of isolation a lot clearer, only I was sinking into depression and it was a complicated situation with staff losses and a department under pressure, and I couldn’t make enough money working to pay my fees and have time to do the PhD, it all came apart so horribly and it was an awful part of my life. But, I have benefited from the experience, hugely, it taught me so much. And I wrote some kick ass octopus poems too. I want desperately to prove that I can do this, and do it well.

Anyway. If nothing else, I have been offered an unconditional place at the second to top university in England for English, to do a PhD in an area that I am hugely passionate about, on a subject that I am in love with, and all of it relating to a community where I feel the work would make a huge difference. And I’m going to grasp that achievement, and put it in my little heart locker, I’m going to be proud of that.

Until next time, look out for my #dailydiary tweets and also look out for news of a brand new online course I’m going to be running, which will open for bookings on Friday (14th February) for the starting date of 1st March 2020. It’s going to be a good one!

adult beverage caffeine cappuccino
Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Pexels.com

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Last Chance to Book!

four rock formation
Photo by nicollazzi xiong on Pexels.com

 

I have sold out my How to Write a Poem course, starting tomorrow (1st february) but I have plenty of places on the Approaching Your Writing With a Beginner’s Mind course. One of my own personal favourites, this one, and probably the antidote we all need on this stressful political climate. Details below

Approaching Your Writing with a Beginner’s Mind

pink waterlily flower in full bloom
Photo by Ithalu Dominguez on Pexels.com

Do you remember why you began writing? If you close your eyes and settle your mind, can you remember the feelings you experienced when writing your first story, your first poem or even when you read your first book? Does the process still spark the same joy?

In this month long, online course you will be invited to reconnect with your beginner’s mind and explore your creative process not from a new perspective, but from an old perspective, casting off the self doubts and worry that often accompany the writing process and embracing the mind of the beginner.

What is the beginner’s mind? The expert’s mind is full of knowledge, it knows about technique and is widely read, the experts mind is full of purpose and definition but is also constrained by them, worrying about ‘getting it right’. The beginner’s mind is open to new experiences, new ways of looking at the world, the beginner’s mind is free to express itself. In the beginner’s mind, creativity is the key part of the writing process.

This four week course/online workshop will help you reconnect with your beginner’s mind. Each week you will receive a ‘lesson plan’ with a simple mindfulness meditation exercise to try, a weekly writing focus, resources, writing examples, tips and guidance. You’ll also receive a daily, optional, creativity prompt to help stimulate your writing potential. These will be delivered directly to your inbox. There will be a closed Facebook group, which is optional, where course attendees can chat, exchange ideas and share work for gentle and constructive criticism.

Ready to embrace your beginner’s mind? Places are limited so book early to avoid disappointment. The course begins on 1st February.

How to Sign Up

I now have a simple payment method in my shop where you can make a payment to sign up. If the email address you want your course materials sent to is different to your PayPal address, let me know by emailing me at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com. To make things fair, and to make sure that my courses are available to those on lower incomes, I have a tiered pricing system. Details below. And don’t forget, you can sponsor a place for a writer who doesn’t have the money to sign up. What a great  gift that would be! I currently have zero sponsored places.

Payment Tiers

For this course, and all future courses, I am bringing in a method of tiered payment, a ‘pay what you can’  method which relies on the honesty of course attendees. There are three payment levels: £20, £40 and £60. There is also the option to sponsor another place at the price level of your choice so that I can support disadvantaged writers.

Why I have given the option to pay more

Lots of previous attendees have told me, during feedback sessions, that they would have paid much more for one of these courses, comparing it to other courses available to them. But at the same time, lots of people have told me they were grateful for the lower cost as it meant they could afford to develop their writing within their own means. I am from a working class background and still live in a working class town. There’s a grey area when it comes to WC folk, and it’s the place where almost everyone I know lives – the place where you are certainly not living in poverty, but you can’t justify retreats, courses or workshops because there is always something else (Christmas, birthdays etc).
It’s my opinion that everyone should have access to exploring their world through the arts, creative writing is my niche and in a world in which the arts are being slowly eroded, where funding is reduced and reduced, I feel I need to do something practical to help people like me, from my background. At the same time, as a working class writer and workshop facilitator, I need to be able to pay my bills and continue doing the things that I have trained for. Hence the option to pay more if you feel you can.
I know from experience how difficult it is to work out which level is right for you, so I have put some guidance together, below. I’ve based my reasoning mainly on the value of £20 in relation to  food and alcohol for some reason:

Sponsored Place – 

If you would need to make a choice between the course and essentials like food and electricity, then you are most likely entitled to a sponsored place.  Get in touch at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com for a chat. I don’t interrogate, this is an honesty system and giving writers a leg up is important.

£20 

If £20 is what you might spend on a takeaway and a bottle of wine, this is probably the tier for you.

£40

If £20 is what you spend on a bottle of wine and a nice bar of chocolate, the forty pound tier sounds about right for you.

£60

If twenty pounds is the amount that you might put into a charity box, or a church collection, then this is probably the tier for you.

YOU CAN SPONSOR A PLACE

Even if you aren’t interested in doing the course, you can still sponsor a place and give a leg up to a writer who has hit hard times and can’t justify the disposable income for a creative writing course. If you ARE doing the course, you can also sponsor an extra place. You might choose to pay £40 for yourself and sponsor a £20 place, you might be an absolute angel and pay £60 and still sponsor a £20 place, you might be a virtual saint and sponsor two £60 places. It’s up to you. Mix and match.

 

 

Launching Today: Two online Courses Starting 1st of February!

brown wooden desk
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Every year I walk into January with my head in the clouds, expecting all my New Year plans to fall perfectly into place. It’s like I forget that January is one of my busiest months as a freelance writer, not only am I catching up on December’s work because I dared to have a a few days off, but I am setting things in place to ensure future projects are nailed down and diarised. So forgive me for not managing to update my website or start the series of mini videos I’d planned (is it a vlog? I don’t know, I’m past forty so everything involving technology is beginning to be scary and confusing) These things are coming. In February I will be investing in some tools to help me get the most out of my website, and to set up the videos in a more professional manner. Trial and error has shown me I need a proper microphone and probably some lighting for them to work. By March I should have upgraded the website to add a chat room function and closed members area so that I can finally let go of my reliance on Facebook which is irritatingly glitchy and leaves me at the whim of facebook management changes. I should have an automated newsletter set up too, so you can sign up for updates on the online courses, but not this month! January, like I say is a phenomenally busy month. To give you an idea of what I have been doing this month, and so I can feel good about surviving it, here’s a little list. This month I have mostly been:

  • Running the current online course
  • Mentoring
  • Applying for a university place
  • Applying for a Full uni scholarship
  • Applying for a small ACE grant to help me with marketing for the play – script in hand reading in Huddersfield, details to follow!
  • Putting issue 40 of Dream Catcher magazine together
  • Applying for a big commssion
  • Catching up on book work
  • The dreaded tax return

Also trying to get to the gym more, eat better and not drink at all. It has been a ridiculous month in which it feels like everything is competing for priority. Still, half way through the month and I’m nearly through the list. February should be less chaotic but I’ll be sitting on my jangling nerves waiting on news on nearly all the above. Sigh.

That’s the end of my busy boast/slight mental break down. On to news of the new course/s.

I’ve decided, in February, to re-run not one but two previous courses, with some updates and new prompts for both. One of the courses involves detailed critique and ‘homework’ and is therefore more involved. It’s called ‘How to Write a Poem’ and details are below. There are very very limited spaces on this one and it’s a fixed price to reflect the amount of work involved and the small group, close contact nature of the course. The other course is my prompt a day Approaching Your Writing with a Beginner’s Mind course, details below. This one is a popular one and perfect for putting good self care habits around your writing. You can sign up for both using the PayPal button in my Shop if your email address is different to your PayPal address, drop me a line at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com . And do get in touch with questions or queries.

Here are the details for both courses:

 

Approaching Your Writing with a Beginner’s Mind

pink waterlily flower in full bloom
Photo by Ithalu Dominguez on Pexels.com

Do you remember why you began writing? If you close your eyes and settle your mind, can you remember the feelings you experienced when writing your first story, your first poem or even when you read your first book? Does the process still spark the same joy?

In this month long, online course you will be invited to reconnect with your beginner’s mind and explore your creative process not from a new perspective, but from an old perspective, casting off the self doubts and worry that often accompany the writing process and embracing the mind of the beginner.

What is the beginner’s mind? The expert’s mind is full of knowledge, it knows about technique and is widely read, the experts mind is full of purpose and definition but is also constrained by them, worrying about ‘getting it right’. The beginner’s mind is open to new experiences, new ways of looking at the world, the beginner’s mind is free to express itself. In the beginner’s mind, creativity is the key part of the writing process.

This four week course/online workshop will help you reconnect with your beginner’s mind. Each week you will receive a ‘lesson plan’ with a simple mindfulness meditation exercise to try, a weekly writing focus, resources, writing examples, tips and guidance. You’ll also receive a daily, optional, creativity prompt to help stimulate your writing potential. These will be delivered directly to your inbox. There will be a closed Facebook group, which is optional, where course attendees can chat, exchange ideas and share work for gentle and constructive criticism.

Ready to embrace your beginner’s mind? Places are limited so book early to avoid disappointment. The course begins on 1st February.

How to Sign Up

I now have a simple payment method in my shop where you can make a payment to sign up. If the email address you want your course materials sent to is different to your PayPal address, let me know by emailing me at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com. To make things fair, and to make sure that my courses are available to those on lower incomes, I have a tiered pricing system. Details below. And don’t forget, you can sponsor a place for a writer who doesn’t have the money to sign up. What a great  gift that would be! I currently have zero sponsored places.

Payment Tiers

For this course, and all future courses, I am bringing in a method of tiered payment, a ‘pay what you can’  method which relies on the honesty of course attendees. There are three payment levels: £20, £40 and £60. There is also the option to sponsor another place at the price level of your choice so that I can support disadvantaged writers.

Why I have given the option to pay more

Lots of previous attendees have told me, during feedback sessions, that they would have paid much more for one of these courses, comparing it to other courses available to them. But at the same time, lots of people have told me they were grateful for the lower cost as it meant they could afford to develop their writing within their own means. I am from a working class background and still live in a working class town. There’s a grey area when it comes to WC folk, and it’s the place where almost everyone I know lives – the place where you are certainly not living in poverty, but you can’t justify retreats, courses or workshops because there is always something else (Christmas, birthdays etc).
It’s my opinion that everyone should have access to exploring their world through the arts, creative writing is my niche and in a world in which the arts are being slowly eroded, where funding is reduced and reduced, I feel I need to do something practical to help people like me, from my background. At the same time, as a working class writer and workshop facilitator, I need to be able to pay my bills and continue doing the things that I have trained for. Hence the option to pay more if you feel you can.
I know from experience how difficult it is to work out which level is right for you, so I have put some guidance together, below. I’ve based my reasoning mainly on the value of £20 in relation to  food and alcohol for some reason:

Sponsored Place – 

If you would need to make a choice between the course and essentials like food and electricity, then you are most likely entitled to a sponsored place.  Get in touch at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com for a chat. I don’t interrogate, this is an honesty system and giving writers a leg up is important.

£20 

If £20 is what you might spend on a takeaway and a bottle of wine, this is probably the tier for you.

£40

If £20 is what you spend on a bottle of wine and a nice bar of chocolate, the forty pound tier sounds about right for you.

£60

If twenty pounds is the amount that you might put into a charity box, or a church collection, then this is probably the tier for you.

YOU CAN SPONSOR A PLACE

Even if you aren’t interested in doing the course, you can still sponsor a place and give a leg up to a writer who has hit hard times and can’t justify the disposable income for a creative writing course. If you ARE doing the course, you can also sponsor an extra place. You might choose to pay £40 for yourself and sponsor a £20 place, you might be an absolute angel and pay £60 and still sponsor a £20 place, you might be a virtual saint and sponsor two £60 places. It’s up to you. Mix and match.

 

How to Write a Poem Course

notebook writing pencil start
Photo by Dom J on Pexels.com

The course starts on February 1st and lasts for four weeks, finishing on February 29th. There will be two lesson plans per week which include homework assignments.

Included in the course is personal critique of four poems per course participant, worth £32. You can choose whether these are poems which you have developed on the course, or something from another project that you’re working on. There will be a closed facebook group to chat, share ideas, share poem drafts and critique of each other’s work, but as always, this is not mandatory.

One of the things that I have noticed while running previous courses, and workshops and when mentoring, is that people worry that they haven’t had any ‘formal training’ as a poet. There is a fear that every other poet you will ever meet has been to poetry university and learned the secrets to writing a poem. In actual fact, there are far more ‘untrained’ poets than poets that have any formal education and you certainly do not need to have a university degree to write a poem. The aim of this course is to get the writer past their imposter syndrome. It’s perfect for those lacking confidence in their ability, good for beginners and also good for those wanting to refresh and get writing again.

briefly, the course covers:

Getting From Inspiration to First Draft

Developing exercises and techniques to actually get pen to paper. We’ll look at how and where inspiration can come from, the role of the poet and getting a first draft down without wanting to burn it immediately.

Working in Structured Form

We’ll be looking at a few different forms, and how to write in them. We’ll look at putting older forms into context and how and when to use form, how to choose a form for your poem and not to let the poem be consumed by the form.

Working in Free Verse

The course will look at the natural rhythms and structures of free verse, the use or non use of punctuation. We’ll look at poems which push out of their boundaries as well as looking at line breaks, and the tools in the poets work box.

Smoothing the Edges

The course will also look at editing,  what to kill and what to keep, how to develop a critical eye and how to stop editing. The course will also, briefly, look at finding an outlet for your poems, how to write a cover letter and how to keep a good record of submissions.

Cost: £60

There is no tiered payment method for this course. You can book a place on the course via the PayPal button in my Shop remember to drop me a line at wendyprattfreelancewriter@gmail.com if your email address is different to your PayPal address, and drop me a line if you have any questions.

Wendy

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2020: The Year of the Novel

pexels-photo-3401900.jpeg
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

First of all, Happy New Year, and happy new decade! I wish you all a year of light and love.

How wonderful to have reached another new year and to be alive and full of hope for the future. That is genuinely how I feel going into this new year. I have lots of plans which I’ll tell you about below, but before I get onto the good stuff, I wanted to do the whole decade comparison thing. It was a BIG decade.

At the start of the decade I was pregnant and feeling relived that our long journey through infertility (six years at that point) was over, we’d made it, and on our first and only NHS funded IVF cycle. I felt completely blessed and incredibly lucky. In 2010 my entire world imploded when, partly due to clinical negligence, our baby girl died during an emergency crash section. At the end of the decade I have finally dealt with her things and rehomed them, and accepted that we will never be parents and never have a family and let me tell you, it was hard hard. You can read about it here.

In between those two events, amongst other things, I…

  • Fought to have Matilda’s death recognised as preventable and the protocols changed to prevent someone else gong through what we went through
  • Fought to get the children’s cemetery protected to allow parents to grieve in whatever way came naturally to them
  • Got a BA in English literature with the OU while working full time
  • Got an MA in creative writing, with distinction, done distance learning whilst working full time
  • Did part of a PhD, which I have no regrets over, and through which I learned an enormous amount about myself, no regrets about leaving that one either.
  • Wrote four collections of poetry, all published
  • Finally wrote my fifth collection, about my daughter, the one that I am most proud of.
  • Wrote a play
  • Left my secure, full time job to be my own boss, set up a successful animal care business which I used as a stepping stone to eventually..
  • Become a full time freelance writer, workshop facilitator and mentor

I started the decade as a microbiologist and ended it as a writer.

I feel like I am almost unrecognisable from that pregnant woman who went into 2010 so innocently hopeful about the future. The feeling of that hope, and I can literally feel it like a bomb in my chest, even now, is painful. It broke me completely, that year, and the years to follow, but I also feel like it grew me, or grew the person I was meant to be. It stripped everything away so that only the things that were truly important were left, I’d lost the most important thing to me; the most important person to me, other than my husband.

I did alright there. i did what I needed to do to survive. i worked and I wrote and I made it through.

And now, to the future, oh the plans! The plans!

First of all, at the end of 2019 I took the decision to step away from all unpaid work. All of it. It meant making difficult decisions, but my paid work has increased so much that unless I give unpaid work up, I will never get time to actually write. I felt like I was using the unpaid work as a shield so that I didn’t have to face failing as a writer, which is crazy as I have never failed yet and besides, it’s not polarised like that, there are less successful projects and more successful projects but no writing is a failure because the act of creation is often the point of the process and the project. If that makes sense.

I have been dithering over writing a novel for about two years now, finding excuses and moaning and moaning because I didn’t have the time I wanted to put into it and suddenly it dawned on me that if I cut that unpaid work out, it would free up roughly 8-15 hours a week to write. sometimes that will be less, sometimes more depending on my paid workload, but I should always from now on have SOME time to write and also be able to take Sunday off every week to do absolutely nothing. This feels like the most incredible gift and the thing that I have been working towards for the last five years. I sat down and worked out what I want to do with the novel, worked out my research time, planning time and actual writing time, looked at plot lines and time lines an I am now seriously ready to do it.

And what’s more, I am only setting myself two goals this year and no resolutions. The novel is one goal and the other goal is myself. I want to reconnect with myself, get healthy and fit again, get myself better physically and mentally. This decade was hard, I was driven and grieving and filling the wound of my daughter’s death with work and now all that working, those fifty, sixty hour weeks are starting to pay off and I feel like I am in a good place, the sort of place that will allow me to prioritise myself and my health for a while, and my writing is a huge part of that.

As is the nature of the writer’s world, the arts world, I will be continuously applying for funded projects, commissions, grants, jobs and of course the scholarship for the new PhD, but I’m not putting all my eggs into those baskets; if they come through then I’ll adjust my plans, but at least until September I have this year to focus on the novel and myself.

I’m also hoping to build on the online courses, bring in more blogs that have less of a personal slant, more ‘how to’ blogs and I am hoping to start up some vlogs too. I’m hoping to get a chat room on my website soon so that I can make the online course system smoother and I am going to be learning how to use modern technology (yikes) to streamline further and build a proper mailing list etc. No mean feat when you are as crap with technology as I am. Watch this space!

I didn’t know how I would feel this year, my little girl would have been ten in 2020 and that feels significant. But I actually for the first time in such a long time, I feel at peace with the world and ready to take my place in it.

A massive thank you to everyone who has supported me along this journey and to the people who continue to support me, thank you for sticking with me when I was mental crazy and depressed, thank you for sticking by me now.

Happy new year, much love.

 

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