Like with ‘If on a Winter’s Night’, I’ll always come crawling back to this little blog. Eventually.
If you’re a big reader, like me, then you’ll know this feeling. You pick up the book, only to put it down unfinished after a few chapters. You pick it up again a while later, determined to finish this time…only to put it down yet again. A third time, this time you’ll do it. Then you remember why you put it down twice before.
That book for me is Italo Calvino’s ‘If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller’. I like metafiction. I like the concept, and the plot. Much of the book has me reading along happily, but I am still finding it a challenge to get through. It could be me, it could be Calvino – or maybe it’s a bit of both.
Personally, I don’t have much time for reading; I try to do it on my lunch breaks, but I am exhausted lately so that doesn’t happen as frequently as I’d like. As for Calvino, he’s a man of many words. Many, many, many words. He could be describing putting his socks on and make it last 6 pages. His prose is good, don’t get me wrong, but the superfluous rambling narrative voice isn’t the most engaging while you’re just trying to eat your sandwich and have some time away from screens.
This book is a big challenge. I have an English degree and review books on here for fun (admittedly very erratically!) and it’s a challenge, but I will finish it. I am coming for you and your needlessly long prose, Calvino! Look out for the review – even if it takes 6000 years.
So I’ve challenged myself to write something every day for Lent – this is yesterday’s Valentine’s Day special! Technically I wrote this a few days ago, but it counts. I won’t be posting everything I write, but I hope to get at least a few posts written as well as creative pieces. Enjoy! ~R
‘Hello?’ She threw her keys into the tray, pulling off her scarf. Josie, the elderly mongrel she’d adopted the year before came lumbering in to greet her. She bent down and ruffled the wiry fur on Josie’s head, scratching behind her upright ears.
‘Where’s daddy, Josie?’
Josie yawned, trundling back to her bed, pushed up against the living room radiator. May shook her head and stood up straight, hearing typing coming from the office. She rolled her eyes. Working over, again. She hung her coat up and headed towards the noise, pulling her shoes off on the way.
‘Does it ever end?’ She smirked, leaning against the doorframe. Oscar looked up, still typing. He smiled shyly, amber eyes guilty as he shrugged.
‘I won’t be long, just finishing off some forward planning.’
‘And how far in advance is this planning?’
‘Babe, you know the more I do now the bett-‘ May came up behind him, chin pressing into his shoulder as she peered at the screen.
‘Two months?! Oscar, this can wait. You’ve done so much already this week! You need a break.’
‘I’m nearly finished.’
‘That’s not good enough Oscar, you’re exhausted. Come on, save it and turn off. I’ll run you a bath.’
‘There’s not much left to do, I really won’t be long.’
‘May, what are you-‘ She sat on his lap, saving his work and shutting the lid of his laptop.
‘I said enough, Oscar.’
‘I can’t believe you!’
‘It’s for your own good, now come on.’ She took his hand, trying to pull him out of the swivel chair. He resisted, holding on to the chair tightly with his other hand. She raised her eyebrow, trying not to smile.
‘Fine, have it your way.’ She grabbed the sides of the chair and pulled, rolling him towards the door. He couldn’t help but burst into laughter, grabbing the doorframe. She fell back as he stopped the chair. He grinned at her, a mischievous glint in his eye. He leaned forward.
‘Nice try.’ He kissed her as she picked herself up, glaring at him.
‘I’m trying to help you.’ She stood up, crossing her arms.
‘I know.’ He stood up. ‘I suppose I can call it a day.’
There it is! Let me know what you thought in the comments.
It’s been a while since I posted a non-review post (shockingly long actually and I can only apologise), so I thought I’d just write a quick update to prove I’m still here and haven’t abandoned the blog.
It’s been kind of crazy over the last month at work. I’m a temp at a bank and my first contract ended at the end of May. I went for a permanent position that had opened up doing that role but wasn’t successful which was a little bit embarrassing considering I’d been doing the job, BUT I did change to a different contract within the bank which I’m really enjoying.
My new role is basically to prove that our customers aren’t linked to any crimes mentioned in the media, and to refer any that are & could pose a risk to the bank. A system goes through all of our customers and scans the internet to see if anything mentioning criminal offences, disqualifications, sanctions etc. matches our customers’ names. It’s then my job to take the articles/pages that are flagged up and prove that it’s not our customer based on the information I have for them and any I can find about the subject of the article. It’s interesting but it can be a bit same-y if the batch has a lot of people with the same name on – if you get an article on John Smith you’re going to get a lot of customers with the same article having to be worked! It’s a research job really, so I’m using my degree, and everyone seems nice so I’m quite happy. I’m getting good feedback which is always nice, too!
I’ve been listening to Welcome to Night Vale a LOT at work and I’m now caught up… so I have nothing to listen to – please send podcast recommendations my way! I like the Night Vale format because it’s not so intrusive that I’m distracted but I can pay attention to it while I work.
Still learning to drive, I’m getting there! My test is SOON so I’m working really hard to get it to all sink in properly! I’ve booked a few days off so I can cram extra lessons in and try to perfect everything as best I can. I really want to pass & get out and about in my little red Up – I still don’t have a name for her though so any suggestions are welcome!
I completely cleared my room out recently which was really therapeutic, and I’ve bought some wall storage and new boxes from Ikea that I’m far too excited about. Expect a room tour soon!
I’ve been writing bits and bobs but nothing big – a few poems, not much prose. It’s surprising really, considering I’ve always been a prose writer I’ve been writing more poetry lately. I’ve written a couple of poems that I’d love to turn into a series/collection but I don’t have any more ideas for them lately. They work best with a visual (see the first here) so translating that to here is something I’m trying to work out.
That’s about it for me really. Still reading, still writing, still looking for a creative job, still being a super cheapskate and saving all my money. Time for you to update me now – what’s been going on with you? Anything exciting in the works?
See you soon,
Last Post : Review Wednesday | The Night Brother (ARC Review)
I was given this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I know that I give a big spoiler in the first paragraph but it would be very difficult to talk about without giving it away! You do find out in the first couple of chapters!! -R
The Night Brother follows Edie and Gnome, siblings who in many ways couldn’t be more different. Edie is introverted, intelligent and resolutely hated by her mother. Gnome is outgoing, adventurous and uncouth – not to mention hero-worshipped and spoilt rotten by the mother he deems stupid. They are linked, quite literally, by one slightly inconvenient fact; they live in the same body. Edie is in control during the day, and Gnome at night. The start of the novel shows Edie unaware of what is happening – she believes Gnome to be a friend, a Peter Pan like figure who takes her on adventures while her mother and grandmother are sleeping. Her grandmother eventually reveals the truth in an attempt to help her find her peace with the situation.
I’ve spoken before about how difficult it can be to get historical fiction right, and this is possibly magnified in making LGBT+ characters and themes take centre stage. I was so glad to read LGBT+ characters that are realistic and proud (if that pride is strictly confined to their own friendship groups and secret gay bars), and the theme of gender fluidity is certainly explored in different ways here.
The premise of “one body, two souls” could have gone many ways, particularly considering how this is dealt with in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which is obviously an actual Fin de Siecle period novel with a similar theme. The plot borders on ridiculous at times due to the nature of this, but I felt that for the most part it brought it back quite well. I would have liked a better explanation of the “family curse” and more of a back story for the whole thing though.
I was quite sceptical of this book. Garland’s descriptions are beautiful, and the first chapter certainly draws you in, but I did begin to get disillusioned with the whole thing at times. I felt some attempts at adding ‘darkness’ were a little lost on me – the mother comes off quite pantomime-y, and a certain scene with a certain doctor just seemed far too fast and confusing – though on doing further research I did find out that his practices weren’t unheard of, which was somewhat of a shock to me (though it really shouldn’t have been).
The characters were very strong, though, and this compared with the descriptive language kept me hooked. There are some striking scenes that I really connected with, though I wasn’t convinced by it all – particularly the ending, I must admit. In all though it was an enjoyable book with some wonderful LGBT+ characters, who are well worth meeting.
A few days ago Always in the Write turned one and yes, I’m still celebrating. I’m truly amazed that I haven’t quit yet if I’m honest – I don’t like being a quitter but I know what I’m like and didn’t have high expectations of myself! What better way to celebrate than the first in that one series I mentioned ages ago and haven’t touched since my A Bookshelf For…series! Here are my top books I’ve reviewed for each month, along with links to the full reviews if you’re interested. It’s been quite the year, with some damn good books taking centre stage.
If you’re in the UK, you may have heard a new craze in the lead up to the University Challenge Final. I am, of course, talking about Monkmania – the love of Eric Monkman; Economics student, head of Wolfson College, Cambridge’s UC team and all-round genius. His eager attitude, facial expressions and sheer brainpower have won over the country.
Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe that all the attention Monkman has garnered is positive; in fact, most probably like him “ironically”. They love to mock him, rather than genuinely love him. He’s a novelty that they’re probably already bored of at the time of publishing this. I put it to you, however, that this sudden wave of attention for University Challenge, Monkman himself and academia in general, could be good.
It is London, 1756. In his Bloomsbury attic sits Dr Sabian Blake – astronomer, scientist, and master of the Kabbalah. Dr Blake is in possession of the Nemorensis, an ancient leather-bound book that holds the secrets of the universe. Scribbled into one of its margins is a mysterious prophecy and deciphering it could prove the key to saving London from a catastrophic fate. But there are others interested in the Nemorensis too, for more sinister reasons . . .
Wormwood is an allegorical fantasy novel, with strong Christian imagery throughout. The story centres around a book called the Nemorensis, seen by some as a fount of knowledge and others the Devil’s work. Dr Sabian Blake, owner of Nemorensis at the beginning of the book, finds a prediction in the book of a comet, Wormwood, falling to Earth and destroying London.
So you have writers’ block. Whether you’re a blogger, creative writer, journalist or any other kind of writer, it happens to the best of us and boy is it bad when it does. There are times when nothing seems to get the inspiration flowing; no level of playlist making, book reading, exercising or meditating on mountain tops helps (okay, I may not have actually tried the last one and I know you’re all laughing at the idea of exercise, work with me here). Don’t panic, there is still some hope for you yet!
I’ve been writing properly for about 5 years now, and in that time I’ve been struck with writers’ block several (hundred) times. In that time, I’ve done what I’m sure many writers do; tried thousands of fruitless google searches to motivate myself, given up and binge watched box sets instead until another idea pops up. I have, however, collected several unique and interesting methods of writing, ways of getting new ideas and general tips for getting over writers’ block – so while I do still succumb to the box sets more often than I should (I am in fact searching for the remote so I can put Merlin on as I type), here are some ways that can be used to deal with the dreaded curse.
Okay, this is an obvious one, but definitely effective. Oneword.com is a site dedicated to this – they have a new one-word prompt every day. The set-up of the site allows you to write as much as possible on the word in 60 seconds before submitting it to their forums, however you can of course just as easily use the word without setting a time limit. Setting a limit can be useful, and of course you can extend and edit after the minute is over, but it isn’t everyone’s style.
If you’re looking for inspiration for an existing story, it can help to pick several mismatched or random words, and attempt to use them in a single paragraph, page or chapter. There are a lot of websites and sources (including other blogs) that have lists of words – I pick a list, then use a number generator and pick the words in line with 5-10 of those numbers. To get you started, have a few words on me – do with them what you will:
I recently finished reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (come back on Wednesday for my review!). Ransom Riggs used photographs not only to inspire his work, but wrote them into the narrative. The peculiar children are based on real photos from Riggs’ collection, which are featured throughout the book. This is a style of writing that I’ve only tried once, but which can make for an interesting experience for both writer and reader – and with an image already there you don’t have to worry too much about description and focus on the story, which can be helpful when inspiration is waning.
Try this on for size:
Try doing the same with music or poetry. Many writers use others’ works, particularly poems, as inspiration. They don’t have to be at the forefront of your work, but you could take the meaning or even just a line you like and turn it into a piece.
Found poetry is where you take existing texts and use them to create something else – this could even work for prose. I once wrote a poem only using text messages from my inbox.
Listen to conversations, people-watch, pay attention to things that seem interesting in your day to day life – you’d be amazed at where inspiration can come from. In the summer before my final year of university I worked at a charity shop. One day I watched an old lady eat her sandwiches on a bench outside under an umbrella on one of the hottest days of the year. 18 months later and I’m still working on a piece centred around that scene.
The Sky’s the Limit?
Try setting a time limit, or trying to write something to an exact word count. My first assignment for a university seminar was to write a love story of exactly 101 words. You could try only writing sentences with an odd number of words, or start every sentence with the same letter. Writing to strict rules can be difficult, but it’s also a really good exercise and could help get the imagination flowing in the way you write as well as what you write.
And if none of those work…
Take A Break – You Deserve It.
Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a step back, have a breather, and come back to your work with fresh eyes. Whether you go to work on something else or finish the aforementioned box sets, a break can be beneficial.
I hope this has been somewhat helpful in curing writers’ block, or providing some new ways to approach writing. These are all things I’ve tried and while they don’t always help, they are a challenge and fun to try. Let me know if you give any of these a go and how useful you found them! (Or useless, as the case may be).