It’s Reading, Stoopid!

Idiocracy. Big Think. https://bigthink.com

This morning I was listening to a BBC Radio 4 podcast – Just One Thing with Michael Mosely.  Each week he puts forward a suggestion of one activity that can improve our health and wellbeing.

This week it was about reading. Michael discovers how losing yourself in a novel for a short time each day can boost your brainpower, improve social bonds and, surprisingly, help you live longer.

I’ve been hearing and reading a lot recently about the decline in reading and that humanity has reached its intelligence peak – it’s all downhill from here – apparently. According to some sources.

Is there a decline in reading?

‘only 23% of 0-17s read for pleasure daily or nearly every day, down from 26% in 2019 and 38% in 2012.’

As an author, I find this alarming. If people are reading less, and more writers are publishing books, then surely the pool of potential readers is going to become a muddy battlefield! Like those images of animals drinking from a diminishing watering hole – the giraffes, lions, and wildebeest are the writers, whilst the little puddle denotes the readers – depressing. Every writer for themselves!!

‘According to the National Literacy Trust, a major 16% of adults are considered to be ‘functionally illiterate’ in the United Kingdom. Literacy levels are falling among the younger generations and it is stated that 1 in 5 adults struggle to read and write.’

Is the UK getting dumber?

‘Two in five (43%) Britons say they read for pleasure at least once a week, with a third (35%) doing so multiple times and 19% of UK adults reading every day. Britain’s keenest readers tend to be older, with 34% of Brits over 55 saying they read at least once a day, compared to just 7% of 18 to 24-year-olds.’

‘Readability data suggest that the average reading age of the UK population is 9 years – that is, they have achieved the reading ability normally expected of a 9-year-old. The Guardian has a reading age of 14 and the Sun has a reading age of 8.25’. Given that the average reading age of a GCSE exam paper is 15 years and 7 months, how can we expect young people to pass these exams if they cannot read and understand what’s on the paper in front of them?

Another report by the OECD found that England is the only country in the developed world in which adults aged 55-to-65 perform better in literacy and numeracy than those aged 16-to-24. That is, my age group reads more and has a higher literacy comprehension than my daughter’s age group – one day, the 55-65-year-olds will be dead – this means that in time, the basic skills of the English labour force could fall further behind those of other countries.

Not just the UK.

Total book reading is declining significantly, according to some studies in America. The percentage of the U.S. adult population reading any books has declined by -7 per cent over the past decade. It has dropped dramatically over the past 20 years. Less than half of the adult American population now reads literature.’ I’m simply stunned. From a purely selfish point of view – who will buy my books?!

And it’s not just Western countries. India is seeing a decline in the number of young people reading. ‘”It is not that students are not acquiring knowledge, but they browse the internet instead of reading books,” said Patna University English teacher Shiv Jatan Thakur. Browsing (like wildebeest) seems to be the norm.

We’ve seen diminishing numbers of visitors to libraries. Local libraries, school and college libraries, have become ‘Learning Resource’ centres, where students can go onto a computer to work – the books on the shelves sit sadly, overlooked, unread. Just give me a moment to pull myself together….

Places like the Netherlands and Norway, those countries I would usually have held up as examples of culturally intelligent, are also noticing this decline. What on earth is going on?

IQ = Idiocy Quotient?

Is there a connection between IQ and reading/literacy rates? Is there a connection between declining IQ and reading rates, and TV or similar media consumption?

In Norway, Ole Rogeberg and Bernt Bratsberg, of the Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research in Oslo, analysed the scores from a standardized IQ test of more than 730,000 men who reported [in Norway] for national service between 1970 and 2009. They saw a decline in IQ scores.

The results showed that those born in 1991 scored about five points lower than those born in 1975, and three points lower than those born in 1962. These results, we are informed, are applicable not just in Norway, but also globally. Our IQ levels are falling – and no one knows why!

Are humans getting dumber? Have we reached our homogenised collective intellectual pinnacle as a species? Or can I not see the wood for the trees? Am I being pessimistic? Will a ‘new breed’ arise that will invigorate our collective intelligence (or lack thereof), make reading for pleasure the norm and save the planet? I bloody well hope so, because it’s not looking too great at the moment folks!

Who or What Is to Blame?

It’s easy – and lazy? – to blame the internet/TikTok/Twitter/Facebook et al. Some studies show that reading for pleasure, or leisure reading, has been in decline since the late 80s early 90s…well before the widespread use of electronic hardware. The Netherlands has long blamed television.

One study found people could retain and process data significantly better if their smartphones were in another room. Just turning their phone off, or hiding it in a pocket or bag, didn’t work; phone owners still suffered brain drain when their device was nearby. Let’s pause and absorb this…. okay. So, what they’re saying is, that the proximity of a smartphone hinders one’s ability to think. Hmm, so shouldn’t we be banning them from classrooms? Or am I curtailing people’s freedoms?

Is it genetic? What is the makeup of the study groups? There’s the ‘dumb people have more babies’ hypothesis, but research shows that even within single families IQ has declined. Is it our environment? Is it something ‘in the water’? Have we created a stupid-inducing culture?

In the multitude of studies on declining IQ, they’ve shown the impact of technology obsession, genetics, poor diets, quality of schooling, and, yes, you guessed it folks – decline in reading!

Finland

Finland is the world’s most literate nation, according to new research, with the UK coming in 17th, behind countries including the US, Canada and Australia.

Finland has been coming top of the literacy tables for a very long time now. Studies would suggest there is not only something inherent within their culture but whatever goes on in their education system is, quite frankly, brilliant. I’ve read that teaching in Finland is a well-respected profession. The application process is difficult, and teachers are very well paid.

Some 22.2% of adults in Finland aged 16 to 65 attain the two highest levels of proficiency in literacy (Level 4 or 5) compared with the average of 11.8% of adults in all participating countries. What their studies are revealing is, that young Finns are more literate than older Finns. This is a reverse of the UK where the literate are older. Does this mean that Finland is producing the ‘new breed’ that I spoke of earlier? In twenty, thirty, or forty years, will we all be speaking and reading Finnish? Funny how the country that gave birth to the inventors of internet browsers – that thing some of us want to blame for our low literacy rates, is also the most literate!

Read More Books

          So, back to Michael at the BBC. I began by introducing Mr Mosely’s podcast as an attempt to get listeners to try something different to help make their lives better. To increase our well-being, our physical and mental states, and more.

             During the course of the programme, he hopes to “…boost my empathy and my mental health…” through daily reading. A test subject takes on the challenge for a week, and Mosely speaks to some clever chap who conducted studies. We are told that reading can increase brain activity, and productivity and create neural pathways! What’s not to love about that?!

             People complain that they don’t have time to read. Reading novels is something that can be fitted into each day, bedtime might suit best. But a chapter here or there isn’t going to take up much time. Read in the bath. Read during your lunch breaks. Put your feet up after a day in the office, grab a cuppa and a book, escape for a while. Go on, do it! Mr Mosely reveals that reading actually is more beneficial to mental health than a spa day!

Larry David giving himself a talking to. curbyourlarrydavid
Tv tv tv!! That’s all you can do. READ A FUCKING BOOK!
https://www.instagram.com/p/8d8zhcixww/https://www.instagram.com/p/8d8zhcixww/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m00187ws

https://www.readingzone.com/news/dramatic-decline-in-reading-for-pleasure

https://yougov.co.uk/topics/entertainment/articles-reports/2020/03/05/world-book-day-britons-reading-habits

https://www.ascento.co.uk/blog/are-you-aware-of-how-literate-your-employees-are

https://literacytrust.org.uk/information/what-is-literacy/how-does-englands-literacy-compare-other-countries/

https://www.latimes.com/books/la-xpm-2013-jul-10-la-et-jc-what-makes-you-stop-reading-a-book-20130709-story.html

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/annals-the-emotions/201807/don-t-people-enjoy-reading-anymore

https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/research-confirms-it-really-are-getting-dumber.htm

Maybe You’re Just NOT THAT Creative !

Sorry. But it could be true.

But hey, it doesn’t matter if you don’t mind.

Just don’t try telling other people what to make, write, draw, design, sew, compose.

Maybe you think you have something special going on. Maybe you think you have something to sell. Maybe you’re going to be the next big thing. That what you do is ‘my creativity’. Maybe you have urges to make things. But where does true creative talent end and hobby craft begin?!

I know some people are going to read this and think ‘You sanctimonious bitch’, and you may be right.

This is going to be harsh. Look away if you have a weak stomach.

Top 30 Boo Hoo GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat
Fat Bastard says ‘Boo hoo’.
From gfycat.com

1. But my mum said my voice/painting/ is great

That’s wonderful, but don’t confuse parental praise with real, honest, healthy criticism. Of course your mum would say that, she’s your mum! And friends are, often, no better. They don’t want to HURT YOUR FEELINGS.

If you’re thinking of going professional, semi-professional, or exhibiting your creativity in public in any way, shape or form- you’re going to need a thicker skin.

I once spoke to an art student about what she was going to do after college. Sell my work in a gallery, was her naive response. HER WORK WAS SHITE! And what if they don’t like it? I asked politely. She stared at me as though I was saying something in a foreign language. This young woman had no idea how talentless she was.

Stop living in fantasy land. It’s just self-deception.

Be brutally honest with yourself.

Otherwise, things are going to get painful somewhere down the line.

2. Your creative endeavours are original

Are they? Really?

Nothing is original. Everything has been said before. We just try to find a unique way of re-purposing the original message. It might be that the wonky-eyed portrait of your pet poodle looks unique, but is it really creative. And let’s be honest, should you even expose the world to it?

Please don’t set up an Etsy shop, and proceed to fill it with tat. It is quite simply embarrassing. Don’t do that to yourself.

Why would anyone want to buy your shit?

Why do you think it merits equal attention as someone who has worked seriously and with total dedication for decades?

Look at it – it doesn’t!

3. You love being free and Bohemian, surrounded by tubes of paint/paper/fabric/instruments

You think this is the 60s? You want to remain in a student state of mind forever?

Time to grow up.

For most artists, creativity does not come from flopping around in silk dressing gowns, traipsing through a mist of linseed and oil paints. It’s fucking hard work.

You must work at honing your skills on a daily basis. You must practise your craft – and I use this word in it’s true sense; ‘skill, dexterity, strength, talent’. You must learn that what you created last year, is not as good as what you will produce this year. It is a never-ending striving to reach something over there.

Art doesn’t make itself. The tools of your trade, whether they be brushes and pens, electronic devices, piano, fountain pen or keyboard, will need to be used on a regular basis for you to learn what they can do. After that, your brain needs to be trained, put into gear and applied to the problem at hand.

One doesn’t simply wake up one day and dash off a masterpiece. Your painted stones with hideous dog and cat faces are NOT ART!

One does not simply. Made on imgflip.

4. I’m an introvert, therefore I must be creative

No. Not necessarily so.

Stamping INFJ, or whatever the fuck, all over your social media pages doesn’t make you a better person, or more interesting, or more thoughtful, or creative!

And then you get upset if someone passes a remark that doesn’t fit your idea of yourself. And weep copious tears so your ‘Followers’, or whoever, send hugs and kind thoughts, and tell you to ignore the vicious bitch in the corner, because you’re a ‘beautiful person’.

Bull. Shit!

Just because you class yourself as introvert, doesn’t mean you have to affect a delicate flower demeanour. Introverts live in the real world, we just need time to recoup energy away from other people.

Plus, just because you’re a ‘beautiful person’, doesn’t mean you have a ‘creative soul’.

5. But isn’t creativity whatever I say it is?

Well, if we’re sticking with creativity as meaning using one’s imagination to create something – to invent, then yes.

But simply painting from a photo is not using one’s imagination!

Making fan fiction – I hear a gasp of horror – is not true creativity. The honest truth is that most fan fiction is fucking awful, and why?

Because it is the soup of the soup. It can never be as good (or tasty) as the first/original.

Why is it that we can all spot a truly gifted sportsman or woman when we see them in action? We know that Serena Williams is one of the best tennis players, and that Usain Bolt cannot be beaten at his game.

Because we can see the evidence with our own eyes. When a footballer scores repeatedly, that tells us they’re one of the talented ones. We know who is the best, the talent oozes from gymnasts and boxers and cricketers.

But art is another thing. Most people won’t have a clue what makes Turner fucking amazing, whilst Tracy Emin is shite. Many will say that’s my personal opinion – and there’s the rub!

People today simply don’t have the ability to determine what is good and what is bad. Should we say that someone who has been practising their craft for over 30 years can have the right to make this decision?

But newcomers don’t want to know. And the talentless get mardy and whinge and whine because, “I have a right to make art as much as anyone.”

Yes, you do.

But don’t try telling an experienced and ‘time-served’ creative that you know better than him/her.

Maybe listen to criticism once in a while.

Perhaps give the experienced people the benefit of the doubt, and look at what you’ve created, and say ‘Shiiiit, I really am bad at this, maybe I ought to go and do something more useful with my time.’

And stop putting it on Etsy for fucks sake!

The difference between an essay, a report and a story. In brief…

What’s the difference between an essay, a report and a story?

I see this question a lot from people in secondary school, Further Education colleges, and even University students! I’m talking about UK students, I believe elsewhere they teach the difference quite early on. When I was in school – back in the 1970s and 80s, the English teacher would set an essay writing task – what she meant was – write a story. So I never learnt until late adulthood what the difference is. I’m not an academic, so this is going to be basic…

A very brief run-through of the differences.

First off, they’re written in different styles. Essays and Reports tend to be written in a formal, academic style with attention to grammar and spelling. While a story is a sequence of real or, most commonly, fictional events told in any manner that the author chooses.

A report is a summary of an event and an essay explores a particular issue or subject. Both start with an introduction, body with discussions and/or analysis, and finally a conclusion. The main difference is purpose; an essay presents writer’s personal ideas and opinions, a report provides unbiased information.

Basic lexicon of related words –

Essay: describes, analyses, evaluates, combination of facts, statistics, personal opinions, descriptive, narrative, argumentative, persuasive, and expository.

Report: systematic, well organised, defines, analyses, provides information, sections, headings, and sub-headings.

Story: narrative, novel, short story, novella, plot, characters, genre specific, entertaining, aesthetic, creative, tale, chronicle, dramatic.

See the same event in these three examples below:-

Story Extract

The Life and Crimes of Lockhart & Doppler: A Journal of Amusement, Adventure and Instruction

We came to a narrow tributary of the Amazon River, about eight feet across, dotted with floating islands, clumps of debris washed downhill with the rains. Raising our packs above our heads we waded. Something glided just beneath the surface; I halted so as not to draw its attention, Daniel squealed as it touched his thigh. Things gibbered above us in the overhanging branches, creaks and croaks resounded all about. We crossed three more tributaries before the end of day.
Exhausted and soaked in foul smelling swamp water. With the fauna of the forest reduced in our wake by; four stabbed snakes, a shot river dolphin, two blasted parrots, an incapacitated capybara, an assaulted alligator, numerous leeches burnt and a frog that popped when Daniel stepped on it, behind us, it was time to take it easy.
On (relatively) dry land, we made camp for the night. Whilst I cleaned my blades and blasters, Doppler did whatever one did to bright blue frogs to coax some venom from them, Daniel made
tea; and jolly good it was too,
You’ll make someone a lovely wife one day Daniel.” Says I with a wry smile.’

 

Essay version

Although not mentioned within the body of this particular extract, we can glean the narrator’s name from the title of the book. Lucy Lockhart, renowned treasure hunter, and her assistant, Theodora Doppler have arrived in the Amazonian jungle with cartographer, Daniel.

They cross a series of tributaries en route to their destination. Lockhart describes the area as being difficult terrain that the party need to wade through, with unknown things gliding beneath the surface of the water, small islands of earth, and animals in the surrounding environs. Daniel – whom Lockhart has previously described as ‘a lily-livered clerk’, is evidently extremely uncomfortable in this environment. The party have during their progress, killed or maimed a number of animals, including a river dolphin. Although this is a short section from a longer tale, one could surmise that this is not an unusual situation, for at least one of these characters, to be in. They are kitted out for travelling; otherwise, mention would be made of the inconvenience of attire in the circumstances. No-one in the party truly complains, or seems surprised by the ‘foreignness’ of the situation – the names suggest that these are all English characters.

One might argue that Lockhart has a blasé attitude to her comrades as well as the flora and fauna hereabouts. She does not speak of the beauty of her surroundings, only the death left in her wake. It could also be said that she has an Imperialistic indifference to animals and people. The party eventually find some dry-ish land to rest and recuperate on. The cartographer is once again the butt of Lockhart’s teasing, as he makes tea for the party.

In conclusion, one could surmise that the narrator; Lockhart, is if not enjoying the situation, relishing the discomfort of one companion; Daniel. We get the impression that she is unconcerned for the welfare of wildlife and this does not sit well with a modern audience. She is, however, determined, skilled with weapons, so capable of looking after herself and has a sense of humour.

 

Report version

A trio of adventurers are on some sort of quest in the Amazonian jungle. From this extract, we cannot determine what it is they seek, nor how long they have been here. We do know that they cross a number of tributaries on their journey, so the terrain is not easily navigable. We have no way of knowing how the characters are related, nor what their relationships are like. The main character; the narrator, refers to one by her surname; Doppler and the other by his first name, Daniel. This might suggest that the relationship between the two women is stronger than that with the male, as females rarely refer to themselves or each other by surname.

Lockhart

Though unnamed in this extract, Lucy Lockhart is the narrator, the protagonist of this adventure. She is clearly the leader of the party, as the other two characters follow her, and she is skilled in using various weapons – as evidenced by the killing and maiming of a number of creatures – some of which we might assume she has dispatched herself. At the end of the passage, the narrator is cleaning her blades. This tells us that she carries a number of knives, or swords, about her person. Her description of the animal slaughter – ‘stabbed’, ‘blasted’, ‘incapacitated’, ‘assaulted’, suggests a level of humour on her part at the demise of such creatures. The fact that she likes to tease Daniel, the cartographer, also gives us a small insight into her personality – which leads one to question the agreeableness of this character.

The Amazon

The party reach a tributary in the Amazon River – a tributary is a river or stream flowing into a larger river or lake. We know that it is eight feet wide and is ‘dotted with islands’. There has been a heavy rain at some point in the near past, as we are told that there is debris from uphill. The Amazon contains a wide variety of animals including capybara, parrots, alligators and snakes, among other things. There are also unseen creatures living in the trees, as evidenced by, ‘Things gibbered above us in the overhanging branches,’ Even though this is a tributary of the main river, we know that it is fairly deep, as the party must carry their belongings over their heads to prevent equipment from getting wet.

Doppler

There is little mention of this character in the passage. What we can glean is that she is intrepid – otherwise she would not be on such a venture, and she is skilled in poisons. At the end of the passage, she is trying to extract poison from small frogs. From this, we might conclude that she A) knows about animal poisons, and B) has used poisons in the past. One might further conjecture that this tells us that Doppler is either a medic, a collector, or quite simply – a poisoner.

Daniel

There is very little information about this character; however, we can speculate that he is not comfortable in this environment. He is probably frightened of the wildlife, ‘Daniel squealed as it touched his thigh.’ He also makes a good cup of tea; Lockhart comments on it, whilst simultaneously taking a sideways swipe at his manhood.

We might conclude from this extract that the tale is not set in the present day. The narrator carries bladed weapons and at least one gun, which she refers to as ‘blades and blasters.’ This is not parlance from the 21st century, neither is ‘Says I…’ The narrator is clearly sexist from a contemporary reader’s point of view, otherwise she would not use the phrase “You’ll make someone a lovely wife one day Daniel.” In our 21st century society, there is little issue with stay-at-home husbands. In addition, the narrator’s attitude towards killing animals is not commendable, from a modern standpoint. We do not condone the careless destruction of wildlife to suit our own means, and none of the characters seems disconcerted at their demise.

 

I hope this has been of some use, to someone, somewhere.

 

Should you be at all interested – The Life and Crimes of Lockhart & Doppler: A Journal of Amusement, Adventure and Instruction is available on Amazon https://www.amazon.de/Life-Crimes-Lockhart-Doppler-Illustrated/dp/1723026891

 

NaNoWriMo 18 – What Now?

Apologies for the huge gap between my last post and this – it’s been a busy time.

NaNo-2018-Writer-Badge
NaNoWriMo 2018

We haven’t quite reached the end of the month – but – I have hit the 50,000 target with five days to spare.

It’s an odd sensation, a combination of exhilaration; I did it! I finally did it! And, What now?

I am sure that if you have been following my blog for any length of time, you will be aware of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. There are around 400,000 writers taking part, it’s a wonderful image isn’t it? People from all over the world, from all walks of life, busy beavering away at their stories.

To describe it as a race doesn’t quite do it justice. To talk about competitiveness only grazes the surface.

When you take part in NaNoWriMo, you can, if you wish to, award yourself Personal Achievement Badges; Planner/Pantser/Procrastinator/Word Sprinter and so on. You also gain Earned Badges; Word Count/Update/Winner. You can also add Buddies. I know, it’s tres American, but it can be a device that helps you get through the difficult times.

my NaNoWriMo Badges
My NaNoWriMo Badges

I have eight Buddies, I don’t get in touch with all of them, but this year three in particular have been on this journey with me – and that’s the point of having Buddies. Three of mine are based in America, one in France, two in the UK and the others haven’t posted their locations. Amy, David and Kristi and I have, this year, mailed each other throughout the event. Congratulating each other on reaching benchmarks, 10,000, 30,000 etc. We have spoken of time – not enough, word counts – falling behind, and emotional barriers – varied.

It reminds me of a tribe I once read about, and watched on TV many years ago – ‘Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World’ by David Maybury-Lewis. (The Xavante of South America I think it was, but I cannot be absolutely sure.)

This community held a race each year. Everyone took part who wanted to – from the smallest kid to the oldest tribal member. An exciting event where everyone gathered at the starting line amidst cheers and joyful shouts. And off they went, running. I remember watching this really elderly man fall midway. The race slowed down. A couple of others came and raised him up and continued to run alongside him, everyone, every single participant crossed in a muddled lump of laughing and cheering.

The point was, the race was symbolic. They were sort of competing against each other, but more importantly – they were running the race together, as one. It was an analogy of life.

In the NaNo writing event, we all compete against ourselves. We push to reach that Finish Line ahead of others, but at the same time we are supportive of each other. Should someone not make it, then that is okay, they have written something and that’s what matters. We all begin with different skills at different levels and that is to be expected and appreciated.

So it is never an ‘In your face!’ moment. It’s a kind of ‘Phew! I made it. And you can too.’ moment. It’s not only about the individual; you, but about interconnectedness.

Image result for helping others
Helping Hand

Last year I did not reach the Word Count goal – but I had never intended to. It was a 30,000 word novella. The previous year, my first NaNo, I hit the goal in good time – but – and this is important to remember for all participants – I am still writing it! When NaNo ends, the writing doesn’t. 50,000 words does not a novel make. And it will depend greatly on which genre one is writing in. Just over that word count might be a YA fiction story, but if it’s fantasy your writing, which is what I am doing this year, then I’m only half way there.

So a goal was reached. Now there is a new one – finish the novel. After that there will be another goal – edit the novel. After that another – re-edit/re-write.

And so on and so forth.

As with life in general.

Good luck to all those still working at their word counts, but remember, that reaching it is only one stage in the life of a novel.

Image result for crossing the finish line
Finishing. Not the end.

Edit, Compile, Publish???

I am currently editing and compiling a series of my own short stories.

838-02488657
No! No more editing, I can’t take it anymore!

They were begun in 2014, when I first became involved in the world of Steampunk, and continued until 2016. Initially posted on a, now closed, blog the first story having been published in a Steampunk magazine also, I have decided to compile them all into one volume.

The stories are based on the characters that my daughter and I assumed as part of the ‘costume’ for events, gatherings and annual Asylum Festival. These events involve people from all over the country, and in the case of The Asylum Festival, the world, dressing up in faux Victorian clothing; often hybridised from various literary characters, films, Industrial mechanisms and so forth.

This is not ‘serious’ literature – and was never meant to be; more a romp through various countries and continents with varying degrees of success. Lucy Lockhart and Theodora Doppler are a pair of adventurers, aka thieves, who collect treasures ostensibly for the Royal Society in London; think Harry Flashman crossed with Indiana Jones in female form! It is pulp fiction (no, not the film), in the style of the penny dreadfulsdime novels, and short-fiction magazines of the 19th century

The issue I have is that over the course of a writing career – especially at the beginning, one’s style and skill changes and grows – the earliest pieces reflect this, and can be seen as the development of these skills.

But do I publish? Of course, no actual publishing house is going to want to publish a set of stories about a philandering, thieving, amoral, (sometimes murdering), woman, set in an alternate 19th century, so it will be a self-published project – if it happens!

pulped fiction
Pulped fiction

The ‘E’ Word or, I Thought I’d Finished But…

1470045427_o-VINTAGE-WOMAN-MOODY-facebook
“Did you say the e word?!”

I finished writing my story today, HURRAH! Yes, the one I was doing for NaNoWriMo, that I did not complete in the time-frame; 1st to 30th November.

But now I have to edit it,BOO!

letter-writing-vintage-photo
The joy of editing…

I cannot tell you how much I despise editing. The story was planned – first time I have done that, researched, written and completed.

The idea has been expulsed from my mind and body, like giving birth, or squeezing a particularly juicy spot. I do not really want to spend time poking and fiddling around with the after-stuff. And yet I cannot afford an editors fee – I know some out there who say, they only charge so much per thousand words, but free is the affordable amount for me.

When I was a visual artist, I made a quick pencil sketch of my idea, transferred the image to canvas, and painted it – done. I used acrylics because, firstly I couldn’t handle oils and secondly, acrylic paints dry so quickly, you can pack it up (for no-one to ever look at again!) a day later.

Writing is a bit like sex, the more you talk about it, the less I reckon you’re doing it. If I plan too much, or discuss too much, or overwork the idea, then I lose interest. For me, the excitement in writing lies in what will happen as I travel along this journey with my characters, and when we have reached the end I don’t want to go pouring over what might or might not have been.

Editing gets in the way of me starting my next story; I nearly always have two or three; even four ideas bubbling away at once.

Editing is like waiting for three hours at the airport for your bags after returning from holiday – feels like wasting time, but that’s your stuff.

Editing is like doing the washing up after a fat, fulfilling meal – takes the shine off it.

Editing is like having to write the envelopes after the Christmas cards are written – boring.

writing rage
“I said back off! I don’t want to edit my story.”

Revisiting the NaNaWriMo site is helpful, to a degree. There’s congratulations and praise; regardless of whether a writer reached 50,000 words or not. For the NaNo team, it’s the taking part that matters, that effort was made, and creativity happened. But what they do have is a link to help people like me – 5 Quick Editing Wins for December. Thanks NaNo Team (Katharine Gripp and co)

You did it.gif
Buddy the Elf

So, I am off to edit now, wish me luck. To misquote the heroic Captain Oates, “I’m going in and I might be some time.”

Have a good weekend everyone.

What I Have Learnt This NaNoWriMo

 

  • During a storm in Nottinghamshire, in 1558, a child was carried off in the winds.
  • Ghyll is Old Norse for deep ravine.
  • You could be engaged at 7 years of age – in the 16 and 17th centuries.

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Children of the 17th century

  • Church bells can be heard up to seven miles; depending on weather, landscape or obstruction. (In winter they are heard farther as the leaves are off the trees.)
  • Cumbrian dialect for an armpit, is oxter.
  • By the end of the 17th century, only 50% of men and 25% women were able to sign their own names. They could not read or write otherwise.

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    Signatures of Master Bushell and Master Hodges
  • A poultiggery is a hen-house above a pig-house (it protects the eggs from predators such as rats)

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    A poultiggery
  • Martin Luther wrote hymns.

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    ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’. Martin Luther
  • I write slower than I did last year!

Old vintage typewriter
Slow Writing

Aphorisms on NaNoWriMo

NaNo turns the spectator into the actor – the reader into the writer – the internal dialogue is expanded for all.

For anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel, implying ‘we all have a novel inside us’, takes away from the real, honed creativity of the true ‘time-served’ novelist.

Self publishing turns us all into writers.

Without control the quality of literary talent will be watered to a degree that we do not know what real writing ‘tastes’ like.

All you have to do is write what you know. But what if you know nothing?

Everyone is a winner. (which means that no one is a winner)

***


Acknowledgement – this post is the soup of the soup. Dr. J. Suglia got here first.

 

NaNoWriMo Headache

migraine (n.)
late 14c., megrim, from Old French migraigne (13c.), from vulgar pronunciation of Late Latin hemicrania “pain in one side of the head, headache,” from Greek hemikrania,from hemi-“half” +kranion”skull” (see cranium). The Middle English form was re-spelled 1777 on the French model. Related: Migrainous. https://www.etymonline.com/word/migraine

 

I had my first migraine when I was around 25 years of age. I didn’t know I was having a migraine. I managed to make it home from the shop I worked in at the time, get into my pyjamas and lie down on the settee. I thought I was coming down with flu. When I complained about an awful noise in the apartment, my husband had to turn off the fridge – and that’s when he knew – I was having a migraine attack.

It began with pulsating neon-like triangles in the outer corner of my right eye. They throbbed away al afternoon, eventually causing such fuzziness as to obscure the vision in that eye. I had the most horrendous headache, felt nauseous, shivering, and later came the vomiting.

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‘Lady’ Migraine!

A migraine is a primary headache disorder characterized by recurrent headaches that are moderate to severe. Typically, the headaches affect one half of the head, are pulsating in nature, and last from two to 72 hours. Associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migraine

A headache?! A headache?! It’s more than a headache wiki!! Ask anyone who suffers from them. I began to get a migraine once a year or so, from that point onwards. Very occasionally one would be so bad, that I would have to take the day off work. Painkillers were useless. A darkened room, a cool, damp flannel on the forehead, plenty of water, oh and a sick-bowl, just in case!

“Migraine is an inherited tendency to have headaches with sensory disturbance. It’s an instability in the way the brain deals with incoming sensory information, and that instability can become influenced by physiological changes like sleep, exercise and hunger.”Professor Peter Goadsby, Professor of Neurology, King’s College London.

A s far as I am aware, no-one else in my family suffers from migraines; not my mother, father, brother, or aunts and uncles or nearest cousin. Then I reached a certain age (mid-40’s) and began to get a migraine each month. And each time it was different – sometimes I would have a visual migraine; Scintillating scotoma, the most common visual aura preceding migraine, but often without the after headache. I would get Ocular migraines; painless, temporary visual disturbances that can affect one or both eyes; that’s the one which makes you think you might be going blind; scary but it passes. As well as nausea, I get photophobia and in recent years have taken to wearing sunglasses even on not-so-bright-days.

Most commonly, my migraines take the form of, what I call ‘the shrinking helmet’…

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Scolds Bridle – probably invented by a migraine sufferer!

 

…Imagine Alexander Dumas’ Man in the Iron Mask, kind of thing, okay? It is smooth, polished, seamless and fits snugly over one side of your head. There is a ‘plate’ that goes into your mouth and presses on the roof of your mouth and another that presses against your right eye. Through the following hours, that ‘Mask’ is going to get tighter and tighter. Your mouth feels as though it will press up through your nasal cavity, your eyeball is flattened… and then you get used to it. It seems to resolve into a neck-pinching all-over general pain. There may, or may not, be nausea.

I missed my writing session for NaNoWriMo last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, because of migraine!! It lasted 2 days (and on the third day you gasp and blink with relief, but fear going near bright lights and technology) I was not sick. But I could not write at my laptop. I could not hand-write as I couldn’t wear my glasses without the ‘Mask’ pressing tighter. I couldn’t read, use my mobile phone, play video games.

Today, Tuesday, I still have the remnants of the pressure in my right eye and the roof of my mouth. I will have to get as much as possible written of my story, before the possibility of the whole thing kicking off again!

Like some kind of word assassin, it lurks on the edges of my brain, ready to sneak in and kill my vision.

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Roy Batty gives Tyrell a hell of a migraine! (Blade Runner 1982)

 

 

 

 

Stop Stalling, Get Writing. NaNoWriMo is here !

NaNoWriMo 2017
Good Morning WriMo’s,

This is my 2nd year at NaNo. Last year I started a sci-fi novel, reached my 50,000 word count and continued it – it is still progressing, has passed 100,000; but that’s for another time. This year I am trying a new approach. Planning!!!!! 

I am late to the party this year, partly because of that and due to other writing commitments: I have a little map of the village in my notebook, all the villagers names, family connections and job roles in the community i.e. dyer, scribe, labourer etc. I have NEVER planned a story before.

I will be ‘trying’ to write a piece of Magical Realism, set in late 17th early 18th century. Suzanna is a 12 year old on the cusp of womanhood. All she wants is to be the May Queen and for James Joseph to fall in love with her. An isolated village, the Church, culture and conformity, and Oak Tree Jesus!

 

And so begins my introduction to this years NaNoWriMo event.

NaNoWriMo?? I hear you cry – what is wrong with you Alex, have you forgotten how to speak or are you making up new words?

National Novel Writing Month – shortened to nanowrimo –  is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. But you don’t have to!

If you’re a writer and need something to motivate you – this might prove to be worth a shout. I joined, last year, on the recommendation of a fellow Wirral Writer. I work alone, I like working alone, I don’t mix well when it comes to creativity, I don’t want to share my ideas and I don’t want to make new friends – if that sounds like you, then NaNo is still fit for purpose. You do not have to do anything you don’t want. But I got a hell of a lot of words written! I found that this works for me, I need a ‘kick-up-the-arse’, not because I don’t write or enjoy it, but because I get lost in the minutiae, or I wander off into the Land of Research – for example, did you know that not everyone in England in the 16th century had a chimney on their house? Chimneys were a luxury, a luxury!! – see what I mean?

Last year I was what is commonly called, a ‘Pantser’ – writing by the seat of your pants, not organised or planned. This year, it’s Planner; let’s see how that goes.

Sure, some people go all the way, they keep in touch, they communicate with new writing friends, they even meet up at venues for real-life ‘write-ins’ as well as virtual ones. It is a perfect writing platform as you use as little or as much of it as you want. You can see other people’s word counts – so you are either incentivized or proud as a peacock throughout.

So, if you are beginning a new story, or even in the middle of one, you can join the community and share as much, or as little, of your experience throughout the month of November – just get that story written!

Before NaNo – daydreaming, and during NaNo – working!