I don’t have much to say today, but as it’s the last day of July, I thought I’d sneak a quick post in.
I would like to tell you that I’ve joined a creative writing group, which is nice. It’s working well because rather than the usual “you should get yourself published” that I hear from my friends, I’m getting criticism, feedback, advice….
I will admit, it stings when you get 90% criticism and 10% praise, but I write it all down, and I would say at least 70% of the criticism comes from a good point, so I’m learning. It’s a learning experience.
Here’s a piece of microfiction (this one limited to 50 words) that I came up with as a writing exercise. Basically, my brain needs training right now and if I can get through tasks like this and do them well, then I will get better. It’s all about practice practice practice….
The cold biting wind washed her lungs clean, but left her drained. She couldn’t march on like she used to. Pausing for breath, she looked back down on the valley of her married life. Scrub and rock it was, heather and gorse. Sharp, unyielding, barren. And yet she loved it still.
It’s funny how much difference having a good pen makes.
I don’t like writing directly onto the computer. This is mostly because my computer is full of so many wonderful distractions that I have to be in the exact right frame of mind before I can do it. Often this comes when I have a time limit – “I’m going out in an hour, so I can do a quick bit of writing before that.” If I have all day, I’ll watch bad (or good) American TV over the internet, and play games.
I’m afraid I’ve broken Rule Number One of Writing, which is perhaps not coincidentally Rule Number One of this Blog. DO you know what that rule is? It’s WRITE. Doesn’t matter what, doesn’t matter when, or why, or especially how well (although I suppose it sometimes matters where) Write Write Write Write Write. It’s practice. It’s learning.
Something I realised recently is that there’s nothing you start good at, and to get good at anything, you need to be able to make a fool of yourself before you can learn how to improve. Old dogs can learn new tricks, if they’re not afraid of embarrassing themselves and setbacks. Kids are good at learning because they overcome these. They pick themselves up and try again. And this goes for learning to cook, learning to do stand up. It goes for my adult friend who can’t swim, and my other adult friend who can’t draw. It definitely goes for learning a foreign language, which I can tell you from both sides of the fence about, and it goes for writing.
Self-Lecture over, on to writing. As I missed the Mid-Week post (I have literally 6 excuses, but I won’t bother writing them), I’ve got two things for you here today. One of them is co-written. And is definitely full of grammatical mistakes, inconsistencies, and an underdeveloped plot, with a conclusion that makes no sense with the rest of the story. It was difficult to keep up with the creative genius that is my co-writer. Let’s post that one first. I will call it, for now, “Coconut Together”, by Matt and Lily. See if you can spot which bits are mine, and which bits are Lily.
Once upon a time, there was a girl called
and she had a friend called
and they had lots of adventures together.
One day, HANNAH and LILY were at Buckley House. It was summer, and it was hot.
Let’s play Hide and Seek, said Hannah.
Okay, said Lily. You hide first. I’ll come and find you.
So Hannah went off to hide, and she found a big bush to hide in.
She climbed into the bush, and suddenly she heard a voice, “OW!” said the voice.
“Who’s there?” said Hannah.
“My name is Philip”, said the voice, “and I am a rabbit.
“Hello Philip the Rabbit, said Hannah. I’m Hannah, and I’m a little girl. But we need to be
quiet now, Philip. Lily and I are playing Hide and Seek, and she’ll find us.
“Ok”, said Philip, but there was dust in his little nose, and he felt like he was going
“I’ve found you!” said Lily, who heard the sneeze. “Is that you Hannah, sneezing?”
“No, Lily,” said Hannah, “It’s my new friend. His name is Phillip, and he’s a rabbit.
“He’s a very loud rabbit,” said Lily.
“Yes”, said Hannah, that’s how you found me.
Let’s play again, said Lily, only this time, I’ll hide.
Can I play too? said Philip the Rabbit.
No! says Lily,. You can’t play.
Why not? says Philip
Coz your naughty, and you pees in your house, on the floor, and the police get you, out of the garden.
I’m not naughty, said Philip. I used to pee in my house, but now, I pee on a potty.
You’re still naughty, said LIly and Hannah together
Why? said Philip.
Cause your naughty and the police will get you.
Suddenly, Lily and Hannah heard a police car coming. NEE NAW NEE NAW went the police car.
“They’re coming now!” sadi Lily
“Run, Philip!” said Hannah.
and Philip the Rabbit ran away. hoppity hop.
He ran into Buckley House, past Papa Ray, and up the stairs.
Then, the police were in the garden.
“have you seen a naughty rabbit?” said the police to Lily and Hannah.
“Yeah,” said Lily. “He’s in the house!”
And then Lots of police went into Buckley House.
They saw Papa Ray. “Where’s the Rabbit?” said all the police to Papa Ray. Lily and Hannah followed the police.
“He’s in the house! said Papa Ray. “Come and catch him. He went to…. his dance class with the other bunnies and the other pigs. In dresses.”
Thje police went into the dance class, and there were lots of bunnies and pigs in dresses.
Which bunny is the naughty bunny? they said.
And they heard a noise.
It was Philip the sneezy bunny, all covered in bogies.
We’ve found you! Said the police.
And then they threw the bunny in the air!
They threw him out of the window! And then he stayed in the air, and started to fly. with wings!
WOW!!!! said Lily and Hannah, “he’s got wings! and
And then lots of bunnies started flying all around Buckley House. Mummy and Daddy were very surprised.
The pigs in dresses were flying too!
And Hannah and Lily got some wings from the pigs, and they started to fly with the pigs
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO said Hannah
And the Yaya and Papa and Mummy and Daddy and all the family were flying in the air.,
And the police couldn’t fly. so the police got in helicopters and planes, and they flew too, but Lily and Hannah and Philip had wings, and all the different animals had wings.
And Philip dies. but he’s still flying, even though he’s dead.
And Lily flies to Plaza Trippy with Hannah and they had lots of warm milks and juice. And Lily had yoghurts.
Hannah had a yoghurt too. Coconut together.
And now, to extend this special edition post even longer, here’s a poem I’m trying to improve. It’s a riddle, so the first thing you have to do is solve “What am I?” If your name is John, Raoul, or Carmen, or if for some other reason I’ve already told you the solution, don’t post it at the bottom. If you have suggestions to improve it, however silly, then tell me, because like writing, swimming, drawing and cooking, giving criticism to writing is something that you don’t improve at ’til you try and ’til you’re ready to make a fool of yourself.
This is how I am.
I tempt and tease
at the surface, wavering,
a persistent challenge,
your growing unrest interfering
but presenting an innocent front.
Your approach is expected,
I see a reflection with your eyes.
You think you can take me,
while I, half eager for
your teeth to sink
through my skin, bite,
your tongue against my side
I bounce away, unready, unsure.
Do I want you? Deep down?
Or just the thrill of the chase?
I bob in the shallows,
my purpose undecided.
My core as elusive
To me as to you.
– – –
Violence or gentility;
Hot from the shame of defeat,
most do not care to try twice.
I wait for one who does.
Just discovered something new about me and writing – I do it more when I’m cold!
It’s hot here in Barcelona at the moment, so I may try and do more of my writing on the balcony on breezy days and in the shade, rather than in my room. because even with the window full on open, I get too hot to think and go all dopey. Considering this is early May, this doesn’t bode well for July…. last year, I lived in a cool marble palace, so I survived the summer. This year…. not so much.
Anyway, the task I set myself last time was to take a long and heavy Sestina poem about a river, and make it something shorter and snappier. I considered doing a Sestina myself, but one of the inherent difficulties with the form is that it means the poem has to be six and a half verses long. It lends itself to a story progression, rather than a series of dialogues on the same theme, which this river poem was. The writer’s choice of the word “current” to end lines was a particularly troublesome one. Look at these, taken from different verses:
“Wildlife from all worlds visit my current”
“Another day, another hour just me and my current.”
“Photos capture my good and bad current”.
“The banks contain my stronger more powerful current”
“My temper can flare and exaggerate my current.”
Maybe in the not too distant future I’ll write a poem in which I try to redeem the poetic value of the word “current”. Wish me luck.
What I actually have for you tonight is a poem I wrote this evening on the theme of rivers. But rather than restrict myself to following the style of the first one, I’ve taken it off in a different direction. I wrote a second one that is like the original, but in a different voice. Just re-read it, and it’s a pile of steaming bilge, so I’ll hold on to that one for now.
This one is a first draft – I’ve not slept on it yet, so I’m sure it’s packed full of flaws. Enjoy.
“A giant visits the river source”
A giant visits the river source
once a year, walking in the hills,
and when he cries, the water swells
and when he laughs, he scatters flowers –
big bright flowers with no name
that gracefully dance downstream.
I wait for happy years with reverence,
my shore solemnity meets his joy.
In sad years, I swim in the murk
and dip my feet to the bottom.
Come back this weekend for a finished short story!
Every week on Thursday, I meet up with a couple of other creative writers, and we talk about stuff we’ve written. Two of them are short story writers, which is totally my favourite area. One is in the middle of writing a novel, and brings us extracts. There are a couple of others who turn up sporadically, but with me and my poetry / short stories, we’re the centre of the group.
Last week we decided that this week we should all write a piece of Flash Fiction – a story in 500 words or less. It’s something they’ve all had some experience of and I haven’t, but I was totally up for the challenge. After all, if it’s half way between the two media I use write, it can’t be too hard, right?
Before I go further along this line, here’s the story, with a brief introduction (which may be part of it’s imperfection. It’s the last 500 words (and the only words yet written) of a short story idea that was born from a dream, fully fledged. Sounds corny, I know, but I was SO excited that it happened. I woke up and wrote and wrote notes of what happens, and, while I have yet to re-read them, they came to 20 A5 pages of scrawl.
Anyway, without further ado:
“Here’s your car.”
She stood, patient and warmly smiling by my car, her hands clasped on her handbag in front of her, as I fidgeted with my car keys.
“Well, this is goodbye, then,” I said, trying to inflect my voice with a heartiness that fell flat.
She smiled in sympathy at me, a ‘poor boy’ smile at my attempt. “You’re not used to goodbyes, are you? I am.” We looked at one another.
“Tell me,” she said, “Can I… can I touch your face?… Can I feel… if it’s…?” She didn’t need to finish that sentence. I took her right hand, gently, and brought it up to my face, then let go. First she touched my forehead, just with the tip of a finger, then moved it gently sideways, her other fingers joining it, and slowly moved to my hair, and brushed lightly against my ear. Her hand circled my ear, and I looked down to her to see that she’d closed her eyes. I removed my glasses. Still brushing lightly, with the tips of three fingertips, she drew down to my bristly cheeks and sighed as she touched my chin. Then, infinitesimally slower, she drew her whole hand up my face, feeling with each finger the contours of my lips, cheeks, eyes, nose, and finally back to the forehead, before it rested for a second, then lifting her hand slowly away. She opened her eyes, full of sadness.
“So much the same, and yet so different… … did I tell you how, when you picked up the phone, your voice… it made my heart leap?”
She looked down at the tarmac, and I said, “Things change. Time moves on, and things don’t just stay the same forever.”
“And despite it all, the dead would want us to be happy, to live our lives.” She chuckled. “Sometimes the clichés are true. I hear them at funerals. You’re far too young to know the real truth of that wisdom, a lesson it takes a whole life to learn, and yet… it still surprises you, catches you by the throat.”
“Still, I’m glad to have met you.”
She smiled warmly at me. “You know, in all you have shown me, nothing has felt quite real, except the time I’ve spent with you.”
It seemed wrong to, but I leant down, and lifted her chin, and kissed her, briefly, softly, on the lips.
I stepped into my car and drove away.
Having read that, a few points, which may explain its confusion. It is about the narrator’s grandfather’s lover, and she’s not blind.
This was amongst the criticisms I received – lack of clarity. I’ve also learned to cut all cliches from my writing (including “sometimes the cliches are true”) , and that,despite all the positive reinforcement I’ve been getting, I still have a long way to go.
Which is why I’ve posted this version of the story – as something to look back on when I’m better at this and say, “Yes, I’ve improved.” I think Flash Fiction merits more practice, for a start, and I also think this story may resurface as a complete short story.
Hello, and welcome to my Blog. My name is Matt Ridgewell, and what will follow is a collection of my creative writing, in form of drafts and “finished” works, poetry, short stories, extracts from larger fiction, and writing exercises to sharpen my abilities.
Please feel free to post any comments on anything I’ve written, and I will either defend my work or bow to your superior taste, depending. Encouragement is encouraged, as is constructive criticism.
I love writing, and always have – this blog is designed to make me produce more, because I won’t improve without regular practice.
Thank you for taking the time to read, and please don’t post my writing anywhere else without my permission.