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Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The Creativity Demons

You know that kind of misplaced creative feeling you get? Like when you're supposed to be making a macrame plant hanger but it's not going totally smoothly so you decide to go and put a flower border in the front garden instead?

Okay, maybe this is a little bit specific. But anyway, it's a real thing, a sort of 'creation fatigue'. Your mind wants to create something and you're all inspired and fired up with ideas and then... it's like the original inspiration dies away and you still want to make something, but the original something you started just looks all limp and sad and not something you'd want to hang a spider plant in. Or something.
This is fine, but you couldn't hang it in your window, could you?

That. Only with books.

Writing away, everything going smoothly. Then the first gritty little bits start to get into the works. The wheels start making clunking noises and, in some extreme cases, fall off. Your characters behave badly or have 'creative differences' with the other characters and go off to start their own book. Outside the sun is shining, and you are incarcerated in the dark, damp depths of your living room trying to squeeze the last ounce of creative spark out of your tired and limp brain.

And then the 'creativity demons' creep in.

'Look...' they whisper, while you suck the end of your pencil and stare at your computer with decreasing levels of hope. 'You want to make something? Why not go into the kitchen? You can be creative with cookery instead...'

So you lay down your manuscript and wander into the kitchen, thinking possibly no further than a cheese and avocado sandwich with Marmite (because that's as creative as you can get at the moment), and then there is a sudden CLICK and you find you are melting chocolate and grating lemon rind and becoming a kind of cheap version of Nigella only without the clothes sense and the overt sexuality.

So. Yes. Still haven't finished the book, but the cake was AMAZING...

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Imposter Syndrome. A bad case.

Yep, it's true. It's mine and it's sitting on top of a cupboard right now, looking at me with its little pointy edges. Fantasy Romantic Novel Winner it says. I won it for this one...
...which, should you wish not to miss out, is available to purchase right now from Amazon.

Go on, it's fine, I'll wait.

And I am still pinching myself. Still saying 'but how can I have won an award? I'm me...' almost as though the panels of readers and Those Who Know who arrange these things are not allowed to like my books because I am a person who mostly wears wellingtons and works in the Co Op.

It's Imposter Syndrome of course. The fear that, actually, we have no idea what we are doing, are just muddling through, desperately flinging words at a page and hoping against hope that nobody will sit up one day and say 'hang on, none of these words make any sense at all! Plus this book smells slightly of mud and is clearly written by someone whose main task in life is to make sure that the confectionary shelf in the local shop is really really tidy.'

Apparently lots of writers have it. Imposter syndrome I mean, not the urge to keep the Dairy Milk from invading the world. Many of us believe that we don't deserve any success, that we are really rubbish at what we do and it's simply some kind of magical glamour field that is keeping everyone else from realising this. I think I might be unique in also suffering from Imposter Syndrome in my day job, where I am convinced that I am operating a till simply by pressing random buttons and it's only through the goodness of the heart of those higher up in the Co Op network that I am still employed at all. But why? This is my fourth award, for goodness' sake! People somewhere are enjoying what I write enough to shove the books to the top of the voting list (unless they are purely giving me awards out of sympathy, which I hope isn't the case). A shelf full of similiarly pointy stars testifies to this, and also, incidentally, means that I have some fairly life-threatening dusting to do whenever I have visitors. So why, on earth, do I daily feel that I am no good at this 'writing' thing and should spend my downtime doing something more profitable and that I am better at, although at this point my mind realises that I am not any good at anything else and I go and stand and stare at the pond for an hour or so.

Is it a female thing? Is it to do with 'not showing off'? Not wanting to boast?

Or are all humans basically fumbling their way through life pretending to know what they are doing, and in a minute-by-minute state of fear that someone is going to say 'Hang on a minute...'

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Shortlisting and short legs

Well, I've only gone and been shortlisted in the Romantic Novel of the Year awards again.

Sorry, that sounds a bit downbeat, doesn't it? I am actually beyond delighted. I'm up for the Fantasy Award this time round, against a trio of very lovely authors and two wonderful books, so I feel madly inadequate as usual, and am again wondering what the hell I should wear.
This is the book. Not what I am going to wear...

I am cursed with short hair and short legs. In fact, I look not unlike a bowling ball with a pair of feet. So, in desperation, I messaged my friend Lynda Stacey (who always looks lovely and is my own personal style guru), who very kindly sent along some items of clothing which may make me look a little less - well, rotund. I am currently in that stage of further desperation where I try on clothes, think I look acceptable in them, walk about a bit feeling quite swish, catch a glimpse of my back view in a mirror and realise that I look like a hippo in mourning, take off clothes, go and drink gin and then come back to repeat the performance with different clothes.

I am also in training to run a 10k race in May. The training takes the form of flailing my way up and down local hills in the company of a terrier who spends the whole run yelling 'lookrabbits!Runfaster, cancatchrabbits!' and is, quite frankly, exhausting. You would think that this training would mitigate the whole 'bowling ball' look, wouldn't you? Nope. I now look like a fuschia bowling ball.
This is even the same expression as I wear.

Well, it will make me stand out at the awards, if nothing else...

Sunday, 27 January 2019

I've recently rediscovered Buffy. Well, that's not quite true, I never actually FORGOT about Buffy because someone around me is always either watching it or talking about it, or mentioning Spike in some context or another, so it's not like it went away. But I just hadn't watched it for a while, despite being the proud owner of absolutely every episode ever made on DVD and the CD recording of 'Once More With Feeling'.

But somehow Buffy had dropped off my radar. However, a couple of my children had been talking about it and how it's now on Amazon Prime (or Netflix, I forget which). And, hey, haven't I just been given a Firestick for Christmas, so I only have to shout at it that I want to watch Buffy and .....whoooomph....there it is!

(I say that as though it's easy. It isn't. Alexa and I have had a few 'fallings out' over what she thinks I say and what I ACTUALLY say, trying to persuade her to show me Time Team provokes all kinds of things to flash up on my screen, none of which feature the Fabulous Tony, to the extent that I am beginning to think that Lord Robinson (or my future husband, as I prefer to think of him)..
...has infiltrated my devices and wiped himself from their vocabulary.)

So, anyway. After I'd shouted 'BUFFY! I SAID BUFFY!!' a few times, Alexa got the message. So did most of the village, incidentally, and they now give my house an even wider berth than they used to, which has necessitated several of them actually having to use ladders, but that's by the by.

And yes, some of Buffy is a bit...old fashioned now; a wee bit dated. But the dialogue remains absolutely brilliant, the character arcs are heart-breaking and all in all it's a wonderful lesson in story telling. At least, that's what I'm telling myself to justify sitting in front of the fire with a blanket round my knees and a large amount of chocolate to hand, watching Series Four. It's work. Sort of. I'm studying story structure, all right?

Leave me alone, or I'll sing the entire soundtrack at you.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Being like a dog

I've just read (in a Christmas magazine, don't judge me, it takes time to get round to these things) an article about a book that tells you how to be more like your dog in order to be happy.

Don't get me wrong, I love my dog. I've recently changed my Twitter profile picture for one which shows my three dogs (two sadly no longer with us), because I love dogs. Christmas Secrets By The Sea (my most recent novel, go and follow the link, I'll wait) revolves largely around two dogs, a whippet and...well, Brian. But I've never thought for one moment that being more dog-like would bring me any happiness or delight other than that occasioned by growling over biscuits (I do that already, seriously, don't walk too close when I'm eating a HobNob, you could lose a finger).

But, having had a look at that article, and then looking at my dog...

Approach with caution...
... I think that there may be a few things I can learn from her for inward happiness.

1 Bark at the Hoover.

Honestly, this livens up housework no end. You don't have to actually bark, but yelling abuse at the general household mess, dust, bits on the carpet or life in general, whilst the sound of your shouting is drowned out by the drone of the vacuum (and occasional whine when you suck up bits of rug/sofa cover/dog's bed) is very therapeutic. Singing also works, but I prefer shouting.

2  Don't Pay Bills.

Well, it's very easy to be happy when you're a dog and you don't have to worry about the overdue Council Tax or the electricity usage, isn't it? So, while I'm not advocating never paying your bills, because that's a short step toward total stress and hiding behind the sofa when there's a knock on the door, paying bills by Direct Debit, so you never need to see them, helps a lot.

3. Chase People You Don't Like.

My dog is very good at this. In fact, sometimes she chases people she does like. Also cats, balls, rabbits, pheasants, all other birds, deer...anyway. She's a terrier, it's what she's meant for. She's moderately obedient (terrier, so that's not very) and always comes back, and rarely disembowels that which she chases (which is reassuring for the postman). But she doesn't like people in her personal space, which, unfortunately extends to somewhere just short of the moon, but anyway. She's not polite about it, there's no 'oh you we must go for a drink sometime' mealy-mouthed sociability, it's just teeth-first across a field. I think there's a lesson there for all of us - don't waste time on people you don't really want to be with. Just don't bite them.

4. Know How to Snuggle.

In fact, learn how to relax in general. If you haven't yet discovered the delights of wrapping yourself in a fleece, lighting the fire and settling back with a large plate of cake to watch TV or read a good book, then you should. Forget all those other things you are meant to be doing (like writing a book or unblocking the toilet) because dogs don't sit at the window constantly waiting for a cat to bark at. They have perfected the art of appearing to be completely and deeply asleep, wrapped in a blanket in front of the fire. They can sense a cat in the garden, and will leap up from their apparent coma in full 'bark mode' causing you to spill your tea. Don't do this. Just do the 'lying down in front of the fire wrapped in a blanket' bit.

3. Sit On The Table Waiting For Something To Happen.

This one is a little bit harder. You don't have to actually sit on the table, of course, unless you want to, have pants on, and the table is both sturdy and covered in washable fabric. But that quivering excitement that a dog cultivates when it knows that either someone is coming to visit (see number 3, above) or it's nearly time for a walk is something that humans should also cultivate. Get yourself excited about things! Have some sense of anticipation! If you don't, then find something to get excited about (possibly not a walk or the postman, but, you know, whatever floats your boat). Looking forward to things gives you a lovely little tingle, and I should think it's the same for dogs.

So go. Be more like a dog. Just don't come back with a pheasant in your mouth and don't fight that dog at Number Nine...

Tiggy, Dylan and Teal. Be More Dog.

NB - the book the article in Prima was from is 100 Ways to be as happy as your dog, by Celia Haddon. Just in the interests of fairness.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

New Year, same old me.

I'm not a competitive runner. I'm so uncompetitive that I hate running with other people. In fact, if anyone even sees me running I tend to stop and look at the hedge, or pretend I'm just out for a slightly brisk walk and I just wear running clothes because they are comfortable and keep the wind out. The red face and sweat are merely details.

But I've signed up to do a 10k run in May. I may have to insist that all the other runners do so with their eyes shut, in order not to inadvertently catch a glimpse of me running with them. Not that it matters really, I shall be so far at the back that only the person who comes along behind to pick up the litter and the fallen runners would be in any danger of seeing me actually doing it, and it may well take me all day to get round the course, but I am going to do it.

Everyone needs new challenges, and the New Year is a time we are supposed to set ourselves these challenges. Last year I thought I'd set the sort of challenge that sounds doable, but apparently eating a cake a day doesn't count as a challenge and merely results in not being able to wear your usual trousers, hence this year being the year of the 10k run, in order to undo the damage of last year's challenge. Next year I am probably going to have to challenge myself to do everything from a sitting position with my legs raised for the same reason.

When you've got stumpy little legs like mine, running isn't fun. All right, it's a nice way to see the countryside, but when even the cows are laughing at you, you come to realise that all your games teachers were right, you might as well take up chess or jigsaws or any other nice sedentary hobby. Flailing is an unattractive method of locomotion at the best of times, when it's accompanied by a red, sweaty face dragging a sturdily-built body, is it any wonder I don't run in company?
 So I begin my 'training schedule', which is really just me making 'run as far as I can get without falling down and praying for death' sound technical.

The dog seems to enjoy it, though...