Why I Love Writing #4; Nothing Is Ever Wasted

I suppose actors must feel like this too. I’m too introverted to have ever given acting a thought, but I can empathise with the urge to play around with emotions and reactions. To consider them, analyse them, practice them even. For this reason, writing offers up another reason to love it. Nothing is ever wasted. Nothing is ever meaningless. Everything I experience or observe in life can be used in writing.

This happened to me today, and then I started thinking about it, which led to me choosing it as the next reason on this series of posts.

I was out dog-walking when some recent worries suddenly caught up on me and I dissolved into unexpected tears. There was no one else around, so I guess my brain just seized upon the opportunity to let rip for a moment or two. My youngest child had a routine operation last week which all went well, but the recovery at home has been a lot tougher than we expected. To check all was okay, I’d called my surgery to request a phone call from the GP who had wanted to see my son as soon as possible. I knew in my gut and my heart that my son was going to be okay, but I guess a number of days holding it in and generally being exhausted had caught me up. I had a little cry about it, but then my mind did what it always does when I get emotional about something.

I started imagining I was one of my characters. I slotted instantly into a book I have not yet written, but have planned and plotted. A potential scene, a very upsetting one, started coming together very quickly in my head. My tears quickly dried up, but in my imagination, as my character, they carried on flowing. Before I knew it, I had walked further than I had intended, and my mind had shifted my worries from my real life into the fictional worlds I so often visit.

It’s fair to say, I used my genuine emotions to imagine how my character was feeling. As the anguish turned to anger for my character, I started to feel pissed off too. I snapped out of it at the appropriate time and felt a swell of excitement for the book I’m not yet ready to write.

I’m not sure if other writers will get this, or know what I mean, but I tend to feel that in my life, uncomfortable thoughts, emotions and experiences are quite welcome, because I can use them to improve my writing. The same goes for boredom, frustration, elation and excitement. Anything. Everything. Nothing is ever wasted or forgotten. The tiniest things, the most mundane of moments, the passing of time in a doctors surgery, the wind in my hair as I wander down a narrow country lane, the people in the distance, the cars passing on the road, the buzzard in the sky, the rain pelting down, the clutch of fear in my gut, the exhaustion pounding at my head, the hilarious thing a friend just said or did, the minor characters who all play their part in the story of my life, everything, anything, all of it is useful. All of it is observed, considered, anaylsed and absorbed. All of it is fuel. All of it is material. alone-2666433_1920.jpg

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Why I Love Writing #3; I Get To Live More Than One Life

Did you ever watch movies when you were a kid, and think why doesn’t anything interesting ever happen to me? You know the kind of movies I’m talking about. The Goonies, The Lost Boys, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters, Stand By Me… Did you ever watch those films and then moan with your siblings that ‘nothing fun ever happens around here?’

More often than not, our lives are ordinary. Mostly, we are safe. If we want adventure, we have to go looking for it, right?

Not if you’re a writer. I think I figured this out at an early age. I fell in love with reading and became addicted to the feeling of snuggling up with a good book, shutting out the real world and allowing myself to become absorbed in a make-believe one, and then I discovered writing could offer the same joy and adventure.

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And it truly does.

My characters live tumultuous lives, with twists and turns, suspense, thrills, and plenty of drama. There is love and hate, obsession, adventure, pain and sorrow, unbelievable lows and amazing highs. I’ve put them through a lot and because of that I’ve been constantly excited, desperate to find out what happens next, eager to be part of the journey.

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It feels like I go through all these things with them. I mean, I have to, as much as possible. When writing a dramatic scene, when describing complex emotions, I have to put myself in the characters shoes as much as I possibly can. I have to think about how I would feel, what I would do, what I would say, and how I would react in the long term. Writing, therefore, makes my life feel like a rollercoaster of drama, events, revelations and reactions. When my characters are scared, I feel scared. And I get just as excited as them when things go right for a change!

Because of this, I often feel like I am living more than one life. And I could choose to live any kind of life I wanted. When writing, whether in first or third person, I’m creating a world I become a part of. I can be any age, any gender, any sexuality, any class, any culture I choose.

I sometimes wonder if this is why I like writing young characters so much. Because I’m reluctant to grow old and feel like my life is constantly passing me by, going far too fast. As a writer, I get to go back and be a kid again. I don’t have to say goodbye to my youth, I can relive it and recreate it however I wish. In real life, there are always things that prevent you from living out your dreams. Things get in the way and hold you back. There are financial restraints and responsibilities and so on. But if I’m curious about something or feel I missed out, I can write about it instead. I can create whatever world I want and live whatever kind of life I want.

 

 

 

Why I Love Writing #2; It’s Free Therapy

Not that I would ever discourage anyone from seeking help for any mental health issue, or suggest that writing can replace professional therapy or counselling. However, there is no doubt in my mind that writing regularly is good for your mental health, for a whole host of reasons.

As this series of posts about why I love writing so much is personal, I’ll just talk about why it works for me. When I was a kid, I was painfully shy and awkward. I preferred books to real people and once I was old enough to write my own stories, I preferred that too. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I was forever being told that I lived in my own little world.

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Now, being shy is not so bad when you’re a little kid. People often expect little kids to be shy. You can’t get away with it so much when you’re a teenager, and even less so when you’re an adult. Shyness is often then mistaken for rudeness or arrogance. You’re expected, quite rightly, to get on with things, sort your own problems out and be able to deal with life and the world.

I don’t think I could have done this if it wasn’t for writing. It was there for me when I was small; enticing me to create my own little worlds full of friends I wished were real. And it was even more vital when I became a teenager. I wrote diaries from a young age and often poured my heart and soul into them as I went through my adolescence. At the end of every day, there was my diary, waiting for me to expel the bad feelings, the anger, the hurt, the confusion onto the page. And how much better I would always feel afterward. Writing was not only for my diary though. I was seriously addicted to writing in my teens. It was what I rushed home for. I never wanted to be torn away from it. It was pretty much all I cared about. I don’t think I would have coped very well with adolescence if I hadn’t had writing. It helped me so much. I was able to express my thoughts and feelings, reflect, observe, question and have time to absorb what was going on around me. I got so much genuine joy from writing that it helped me hold my head above water and just get through it.

The same thing applies now. I turn to writing when I feel fragile. I turn to writing when I feel afraid. I turn to writing when I feel angry, dismayed, lost or frustrated. Writing is there when I need someone to talk to, when I want to organise and reorganise my words until I’ve finally figured out what I want to say. Writing allows me head space, time to breathe, time to think and work out how I feel. I’d be in chaos if not for writing. It calms me down. Cheers me up. It excites me. I’d be lost without it.

Barefoot On The Cobbles – Guest Post by Janet Few

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When Chantelle kindly offered to allow me to pay a visit to her blog, she said that her own writing was gritty, contemporary and non-conformist. I reckoned that I could manage at least two out of three. Then I discovered that her blog was called Glorious Outsiders and that certainly had a resonance. I am here to talk about my new novel Barefoot on the Cobbles and my slightly eccentric life; Glorious Outsiders abound!

Before I was any sort of published author, I was and still am, an historian. As such, I am not particularly interested in politics or tales of the great and good. I am fascinated by ordinary people, how they lived and the influences that underlie their behaviour. If I say that the presentations that I give on historical topics include aspects of witchcraft, mental health, non-conformist religion and the role of women, you might get the idea. It is the marginalised who intrigue me the most; truly the outsiders.

I am also a keen family historian. I seek out my ancestors and pay tribute to all those from whom I descend. These are not rich people, nor are they anyone who is well-known but they are those who, if it were not for me, might be forgotten. I have several non-fiction books in my portfolio; books about social history, genealogy and local history. I had reached a lull in ideas for more non-fiction topics, so I thought it was time to turn to fiction. I hadn’t written ‘stories’, since I was an angst-ridden teenager. I was all set to craft a very different novel, when the tragedy upon which Barefoot on the Cobbles is based came to my attention. It was a story that was not recalled in local folklore, which piqued my interest. So, in a way, I still haven’t written fiction, as this is the retelling of a true story. I did find that my historian’s instincts had to be suppressed at times. Although very little in the book is pure invention, there were occasions when I had to create plausible scenarios to fill in the gaps in the historical record. At first, I found it very difficult to convince myself that I really could just make it up!

Barefoot is set, in the early years of the twentieth century. This era provided me with plenty of scope, encompassing as it does, the First World War, the fight for women’s suffrage, the influenza epidemic, the dawning of a social conscience and medical care in pre-NHS days, all of which feature in the book. So, from that point of view, the novel is not contemporary, yet the emotions that my characters experience are recognisable today; the psychological make-up of human beings does not change.

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In Barefoot on the Cobbles you will find a narrative set in the beautiful Devon landscape; communities whose lives were shaped by the sea. So not just real people but real, recognisable places. There are scenes in the local asylum, on a battlefield, in court and on deathbeds. I think that qualifies as gritty. It isn’t all doom and gloom because the characters’ lives shaded from joy to despair, as do our own. As I struggle to answer the question, ‘What is your book about?’ I often say it is about people and the incidents in their pasts that led to the tragedy that is the culmination of the novel. It is a ‘why-done-it’.

Who then are Barefoot’s non-conformists, the Glorious Outsiders? The person who became the main character is a fisherman’s wife, who is past middle-age and described by some of her neighbours as ‘odd’. On the surface, her behaviour seems unconventional and the novel seeks to explain why this is so. Apart from this desperate mother, you will meet the troubled daughter, the reluctant soldier, the traumatised engineer, the militant suffragette, the alcoholic bankrupt and others on the side-lines.

I will leave you with the blurb and if you want more information, it can be found on my own blog The History Interpreter http://bit.do/bfotc

“In the euphoria of the armistice a young woman lay dying. Daisy had grown up, barefoot on the cobbles, in a village on the rugged North Devon coast; she was mindful of the perils of the uncertain sea. Her family had also been exposed to the dangers of disease and the First World War but for Daisy, it was her own mother who posed the greatest threat of all. What burdens did that mother, an ordinary fisherman’s wife, carry? What past traumas had led, inexorably, to this appalling outcome?

Vividly recreating life at the dawning of the twentieth century, Barefoot on the Cobbles is based on a real tragedy that lay hidden for nearly a hundred years. Rooted in its unique and beautiful geographical setting, here is the unfolding of a past that reverberates unhappily through the decades and of raw emotions that are surprisingly modern in character.”

Barefoot on the Cobbles – a Devon tragedy ISBN: 978-1-911438-54-0 is published by Blue Poppy Publishing https://bluepoppypublishing.co.uk and paperback copies can be obtained from them. It is available on Kindle from Amazon, in various English-speaking countries. The link for the UK is https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07K3YMYRV