Trying to Multi-Task; My Bench

I have a friend who is writing a novel, and he told me the other day that the way I’m going about things is all wrong. He just writes his novel, and he gets about 4 hours done a day. I’m trying to write short stories, I tell people, and poetry, and maybe soon, a novel or two. But at the same time, I’m trying to write comedy, to write stand up.

Now that he points it out, I see what he means. They are all different arts from one another. I have always held that the best stories are so well written that they contain bits that feel like poetry. I’ve always thought that the best novels have scenes that could be taken out and left on their own, as complete short stories (especially as so many short stories these days seem to start in the middle and finish somewhere later in the middle of events). I’ve even taken a scene from a short story I wrote and posted it on here as flash fiction, and since that time I’ve never felt inclined to post the whole story on here (mostly because it needs attention I haven’t given it). In this way, I could be said to be following a progression – from poetry to flash fiction to short stories to novels.

The comedy doesn’t fit into this. Partly because I’ve never really written comedy. I’ve written some comic scripts, once upon a time, but not for a long while. Stand up is still a new art for me, something I’ve only tried a handful of times, something I struggle to even start to write.

But the main reason that they don’t work together is that I draw on a different part of my brain when I write comedy. Whereas my fiction is inviting a reader to enter a world I create, comedy is about stepping into someone else’s world and making them laugh at the absurdities in it. They have similarities, in perception, in surrealism, in painting a picture… but they have more differences than similarities.

Writers often say you have to be in the right mood to write. I say that part of the great skill in writing is in training yourself to get into that mood, and the other part is bloody-minded persistence. I’m trying to get into lots of moods at the same time, and I’m not winning at the persistence – yet.

Anyway, I have two stand up comedy performances at the end of the month, so I need to spend a good bit of my writing time preparing for them. And maybe, after I’ve performed those gigs, I’ll have some more comedy in me, some more material, and I’ll write more and perform more. Including my old jokes (if I can find them), I’m probably nearly at the point of having three sets, which is wonderful.

But I miss the fiction, so for the rest of this month, I will try my darnedest to do two things – poetry and comedy. They may be totally different, but at least they are both about editting and cutting down and getting to the point as quickly as possible. And progression, and building on what went before. And over the summer, I’ll sit down and get some flash fiction and some big old short stories out of my brain.

Until then, some poetry!

My Bench

Come, sit. This is my bench.
I sit here, often,
staring out across the pond.
My stick rests just so.

Folks here know it’s mine.
I sat on it in the frozen cold
last year when my wife died,
stared out across the pond.

I sat here after I retired.
We moved here together,
all peaceful. She chose it.
I chose our bench.

I’ve had benches before, and others:
that ink-stained desk at school,
a bunk, a cabinet, a peg,
all mine once, all remembered,

all solid. Now they’ve all gone,
my memory stays… ’til my memory goes.
And this bench, too, you see?
But I’ve got a plan.

It’s not truly yours
’til it’s marked with your name.
So this bench is In My Memory.
Plaque’s made, missing a date.

Who knows where I’ll go next…
but I’ll be on this bench.

Cartography

Pick a number, any number. Between 1 and 80.

I’ve been posting a lot of poetry lately, and very little in the way of stories, or short stories, or extracts from longer stories. This is because I’ve not been writing anything but poetry. Partly it’s that I never feel like I have enough time to dedicate to story writing. This isn’t exactly true, but I’d have to be very piecemeal on my story work… and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

It’s also because I’ve come up with a new game. It started when staying with my brother and his housemates over the summer; I asked them to give me a number between one and eighty, and each of these would be one of my poems that I then had to go back to and try to fix up. Yes, I have about eighty “unfinished” poems on my computer these days, although even the ones that are “finished” and posted on here could be fixed up a bit.

So I’ve got a new way to drive myself to write poetry. Feel free to give me one or two numbers in the comments below. Now all I need is something to get me back on the Longer Fiction Wagon. NaNoWriMo (which I’ve failed at for several years) is going to rear it’s ugly head again soon, though I wonder how much I’ll like the idea of working on my story for an hour after a full day’s work, every day for the whole of November. Probably I won’t get very far.

Continue reading “Cartography”

Old Letter

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.

Continue reading “Old Letter”

Too Much Poetry

I’m back, Blog.

And not just me. My computer’s back, and running smoothly once again. HUGE thanks and gratitude to Brenda and her lovely husband Damian.

What’s new?

Well, in brief summary:

  • I lost my camera while taking little Lily around Barcelona Zoo. Getting a new one…. sooner or later.
  • I’m planning a Road Trip straight after Easter, from Shropshire to Barcelona and back again, with my twin brother. I should be posting some of the photos from it here. Obviously, that’ll be after I get a new camera.
  • It’s starting to warm up in Barcelona. I can walk around without a jacket most days. Not today, though – it’s raining, an event that’s now so irregular, it actually affects my behaviour. If this continues, I’ll become truly Spanish and always stay home when it’s raining.
  • Stopped my Spanish classes, but still learning it a bit. Started teaching myself Japanese too. Feel my Spanish isn’t good enough, but want to get started on Japanese…. we’ll see how that goes.
  • Trying to come up with plans for after Japan, mid-August. Maybe I’ll come back to Barcelona?
  • Doing both Improvised Comedy and Stand Up Comedy. Hopefully performing as a warm up act for some professional comedians on the 12th of March.
  • Reading.

If you need more details on any of the above, well, you’ll have to email me or something.

I’m trying to get back into the flow of writing again, but it’s proving hard to kickstart myself. One of my eternal problems is self-censorship. If it’s of no standard at all, I don’t think it’s worth writing down. I need to train myself not to press the delete button for now, and to just type type type until I have enough to go back through.

Anyway, enough of that. Here’s a poem I was getting close to content with before my computer crashed… now lovingly restored.

Continue reading “Too Much Poetry”

“Coconut Together” and “Tease”

Good afternoon, ladies and gents.

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.

Coconut Together

Once upon a time, there was a girl called

LILYP1010086

and she had a friend called

HANNAH

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
to sneeze.
Aaaaha
aaaaaaaaaaah
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaTCHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
sneezed Philip.
“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.

Me and my co-author
Me and my co-author

“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.
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatCHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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

WWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeee
said Lily
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.

THE END

a

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.

Tease

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;
neither succeed.
Hot from the shame of defeat,
most do not care to try twice.
I wait for one who does.

Sudden Rain on an Empty Bus

This week’s been  an interesting week. The comedy performance went quite well, and the hours of writing, re-writing and then reading it all to myself in front of a mirror really paid off.

I’ve been also setting myself some amibitious targets in writing, both in short stories and poetry, to the result that I have nothing new to present, again. However, we’re definitely getting progression, and I hope to have something to present by Mid Week. Amongst my projects are:

  • A Byron-esque poem for  a friend.
  • Much more poetry connected with my current life in Barcelona
  • A Fantasy short story
  • A short story about an old man starting a new life.
  • The “Enrage” poem I mentioned a while ago to go with “Disentangle”
  • The “Stairlift” poem.
  • A riddle poem called “Tease”.

For now, I’ll just post a poem from last year… it’s another poem about being on a bus in Barcelona, like this one.

I want to write more about life in Bareclona, but it’s a tricky business. Poetry works on the fine detail much better than on the bigger picture. It’s about density of expression, not density of subject. Also, when life is very day-to-day ordinary, and I’m not experiencing any strong emotion about teaching or biking to work, or cooking, then it’s hard to get into the spirit of a poem about it. However, I think this last point is more conquerable. Also, I plan on writing about specific people I know in Barcelona instead, as they’re more focussed. Hopefully in the end, bits of Barcelona will be relfected through disconnected poetry.

I also suspect it’ll be easier to write about once I’m somewhere else, and memory’s power of selectivity will tell me what to write about. Her’s the poem.

barcelona sun rain

Sudden Rain on an Empty Bus

Minutes earlier, the morning bus
was warm and heavy like the day,
windows open so the press of
hot breath and smells could escape.

Now, a rush of cold spirals in.
Travellers duck out into the clicks and spray –
umbrellas pop, hoods up, and some run.

Those unshowered who left their sweat-skin here
are showered now; hair glistens
with a new damp, a cleansing sheen.

The bus stands empty, still clinging
to the scent of its custom. Cloyed,
my nose catches a passing swirl of wet concrete.
I don’t close the window;

though I’m not cold, I shiver in shelter,
the taste of rain on my dry lips,
flecks of spray in my hair,
as my grey view blurs with water.

Introduction

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.

the author
the author

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.

Matt

For more information, you could read about me.