My Relationship with Words

Pen, Writing, Love of Words

Picture from Cute Little Factory

I’ve always loved words.

I was one of those children who read everything.

I’d read the words on the cereal boxes and whisper them so I could sense how they felt. Riboflavin. Thiamin. Magnesium.  I wondered a little about what they meant, and I loved the familiarity of seeing them every day.

I’d make little rhythms out of things written on the side of toys – “Safe, Non-Toxic, Colours Blend” on the edge of the play-dough tub became a little chant for me every time we played with it.

(I know. I was a strange child).

I’d read roadsigns and make words from car number plates.

I’d get caught up in the romantic poetry of Rogers and Hammerstein’s showtunes, and I’d sing them over and over.

 

I have two early memories of writing.

One is sitting with my grandad as he taught me to write my name pretty much as I still write it today.

The other is a story I wrote when I was about 9. I remember very little of it, other than that I wrote it out longhand on sheets of lined paper. And that it had a rabbit in it, although I don’t think it was actually about the rabbit.  I remember a bit of a fuss about it being good, and I remember a bit of me wanting it to be my thing and not something that other people got excited about.

Writing was my place to disappear to.

 

I’ve written throughout my life, whether it’s been to remember an experience, or to express something and persuade others.  I’ve written privately in diaries and found having that space to write hugely therapeutic when things have been really tough. That kind of writing comes really easily to me because I don’t have to worry about anyone else viewing it and judging it.

When I write knowing that my words will be read by someone else, though, I feel that I have to be more careful. I want to craft things properly, and sometimes I know that I over-craft things so much that they become stilted.

 

I’ve been writing this blog for almost a year now, and I’ve learned so much about writing.  I still feel that I’m at the beginning, though.

I guess that one year in marks a good time to set out some writing challenges for the next 12 months:

– Writing more regularly and focusing on practice rather than perfection.

– Following along with more challenges – including word limits – to help me focus on different aspects of writing.

– Attempting to pull a more natural voice through to my writing, so that I’m putting more of me into each post.

– Learning more about writing for speaking. I’ve just done my first prepared speech at Toastmasters, and I’ve really noticed how different my spoken voice is to my written one.  I’m guessing that writing for speaking will help with bringing a more natural style to all of my writing.

 

I want to continue to enjoy it too.  More than ever before, the writing I’ve done over the past year has given me huge enjoyment and a great sense of accomplishment. It’s helped me to express parts of me that I don’t normally share, and I’ve started to connect with other people who I admire hugely.  I’ve also had some lovely feedback and lots of encouragement.

I’m so very grateful for the privilege of an education that taught me to love words in so many ways.

 

I wrote this piece for the Dare to Share linkup about Relationships with Writing over at The Lightning and The Lightning Bug.

My Posts of the Year

It feels a bit self-indulgent to be picking out lots of my own pieces to mark the year, but doing just that is one of Mama Kat’s prompts for this week so I kind of had to join in.

I bought this domain name on New Years Eve last year, although I didn’ t make any use of it until a few months later. Starting to blog again was one of my big resolutions, and one of the very few that I’ve ever managed to stick with. I’m so grateful for all of the support that I’ve had this year – the online social communities are some of the warmest and most encouraging places I’ve hung around in.

Blogging’s also helped me to see my world differently. I look for humour and fun in things more than I used to, and I encounter so many other people doing the same. I think creativity’s there for all of us if we just open our eyes to it.

 

These are my picks of the posts that I’ve most enjoyed writing, and in some cases putting together pictures for. Some are just moments in my life, and others are reflections on the whole of it.

 

When I first started blogging here, it was kind of a little secret thing that I did on my own. Mike knew about it but didn’t really get involved.  The day that we made Sticky 5-Spice Gammon together was one of the first times that I’d enlisted him to help something for the blog.

We’ve had loads of fabulous days out this year; we’ve been to lots of new places in search of new experiences (and new photographs), and one of our favourite new finds was the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This post was a bit of a whistle-stop tour after our first visit. We’ve learned now that it’s better to take it easy and meander around a small part of the park more slowly. There are still bits that we’ve not seen, and pieces change all the time.  There are some more posts and pictures of our visits here.

I don’t do a lot of sponsored posts, but when I was asked to do one about baking it was a perfect excuse to make some gingerbread men – Mike had been asking me to have a go for ages. They were great fun to make, but we definitely overdid it a bit – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many gingerbread men in one place.

 

I’ve always been a ponderous and nostalgic person, and blogging’s encouraged that side of me lots this year. It seems silly to call “Where I’m From” a meme because it was far more than that, but it had lots of us joining in and seems to be a pretty established writing exercise.  I love it – I loved writing mine, and I loved reading others from across the world and seeing how closely our memories connect to each other, wherever we are.

Nowhere’s encouraged my sentimental side more than in taking part in some of the weekly RememberRed prompts on Write on Edge, a gorgeous community of bloggers and writers.  When they asked us to write about a season of change in the first week of September, I wrote a piece about myself and my school friends turning 40 this year.

I loved writing about the Class of 1988 the most out of everything I’ve written this year, I think.

And it turned out that turning 40 wasn’t so bad after all.

My Quiet Place

I don’t have one particular quiet place any more. I have a little office at home, but it’s become messy and in need of a good tidy and I’ve lost the ability to concentrate in there any more.

Most of my other places are places that I share with Mike.

 

 

I sometimes crave having somewhere; an attic covered in theatre posters and arty undefinable sculptures, or a study overlooking the sea.

I imagine somewhere where writing would come easily and ideas would present themselves to me neatly, one arriving gently as I finished work on the one before.

 

My real quiet place is something I can create pretty much anywhere, though. With my legs curled in front of me and something I can write on fitting on my lap. That can be sitting on the bed in the middle of a weekend afternoon or finding an empty table on a long train journey. Sometimes, I sit on the sofa way after bedtime, writing under the only light in the house still burning.

In those places, I can let myself ponder slowly through yesterday and start to make plans for tomorrow. I can reflect slowly on things that had moved too quickly the first time I experienced them.

I can go back through my more distant history and use those times to create new words.

But it’s a place that I’ve learned to create inside my own personal space. Writing within the comfort of being curved into a corner, my face mostly looking at the page or the screen but occasionally looking up and around the room at everything that’s there but not really seeing anything.

From the haze of an imagination that’s as excitable now as it was when I was eight years old – so long as I give it the quiet space and the empty time that I need to get there.

 

This post is for this week’s RemembeRED prompt over on Write On Edge, one of my favourite creative writing communities. The brief was to write about our quiet places.

Typewriter

For “Creative” (128 of 365)

A dusty, rusty, beautiful old typewriter; a special find from our Clumber Park visit at the weekend.

 

 

Tips for a New Blogger

These are the things that I’d pass on to someone starting a blog for the first time (with a little note somewhere that I’ve not been very good at following them all myself…).

1 :: Use WordPress.com to start with. It’s neater than Blogger, for both the writer and the reader. There’s less opportunity to over-fiddle with the design, and when you’re ready to upgrade to self-hosted WordPress, it’s a breeze.

2 :: Decide where you stand on anonymity. I’ve taken the view that people I know will come across me at some stage, so I don’t write anything that I would be unsettled if friends (or enemies) were to find it. And that means that I can feel more open about sharing photographs and personal bits. You might decide to go the whole way and actively promote your blog to real-life friends. Or you might want to go for complete anonymity. I think this stuff’s a fairly early decision to make.

3 :: Having a niche really does seem to make it simpler to connect with others, devise posts and build a following. I don’t feel that I have a niche, said I didn’t think I needed one and am now wondering if I was wrong about that.

4 :: Get into Twitter. It’s a great tool for connecting with other people, and it’s a good way of publicising new posts. I’m @girlbehind if you want to follow me.

5 :: Comment meaningfully on other blogs. This is one of the simplest ways of bringing people to your site, particularly when you’re starting out. It’s also a good way to start to feel a part of things on the blogosphere.

6 :: Find somewhere to keep notes and draft posts. I use Evernote and love the way that it helps me to keep all of my ideas categorised and stored for when I have time to work through them.

7 :: Keep a list of tweeks you need on your design / layout / header / badges etc. I can lose hours tinkering with my blog; keeping a list means that I’ve logged the task and can come to it when I have some spare time. But writing comes first.

8 :: Join in with linkup posts and prompts; they’re a great way of finding people who enjoy writing about similar things, they’re fairly easy publicity for your blog and they provide a pretty endless source of ideas.

9 :: Focus. Write things. Don’t procrastinate. As my wise and lovely partner said to me in the car on the way home this evening, if you’re not writing, there’s nothing for anyone to read. It’s as simple as that.

10 :: Be you. Allow yourself time to get into the swing of blogging and find your unique voice. You can bet that there’s someone out there just waiting to listen to what you have to say.

I wrote this post as part of the Summer Blog Social over at Four Plus an Angel. The prompt was “If a real life friend approached you and said, “I want to start a blog. Can you give me a list of helpful tips?”, what 10 (or more) things would you tell your friend?”

Mama Kat has also been asking a similar question on this week’s prompt list; “If you were to go back to the moment you decided to start a blog, what ten blogging tips would you share with yourself?”

I’m guessing I could come back to almost every one of these tips and write a separate post on each of them.

What would your advice to a new blogger be?