Come Back To What You Know

I’m feeling nostalgic.

I don’t look back on the past with rose-tinted spectacles. I think every decade in human history has been seeped in tragedy, usually man-made, of some kind. But there is something in me at the moment constantly yearning for simpler times.

I wouldn’t do away with the internet or mobile phones, but only for one reason. I’d never sell a single book without either of them!

But I find myself tiring of it all. I suppose everything becomes tiring after a while. Everything loses its shine. Sometimes though, we go back around again, we go full circle and return to things we once turned our backs on.

For me lately, this has been bringing some unexpected comfort in an increasingly fraught, depressing and uncertain world. I’ll just talk about a couple today; things I have returned to and how they are helping me navigate these seemingly endless difficult times.

Walking

I’ve always liked walking. I feel I have some sort of affinity with it, like it is something I am supposed to do. I like how it is so solitary and gives me time to think. So many stories and ideas came from walking when I was a teenager. I thought nothing of walking an hour or more to get to a friend’s house and I hated buses. I would always rather keep walking. I used to run too, mostly in my late teens and my twenties when I got rather caught up in trying to control my figure. But these days, 44 year old me is a bit kinder to myself (most of the time anyway,) and I worry about falling over or hurting my back or my knees. So I think my running days might be over but my walking days have begun again in earnest. I now walk to save money on petrol and I feel good about this. It’s good for my wallet, my body and the planet. I also sort out all my plot holes and writing struggles when I am walking.

Letter writing

During the lockdowns of the pandemic my eldest sister who lives in a very rural location a few hours away from us, started writing letters and cards to my youngest son. He loved this and wrote back every time and they have kept this up ever since. A few months back I decided to join in, so now me and my sister converse through letters. Of course, we text, phone and Whatsapp each other too! But there is something so calm and patient about writing a letter, posting it and waiting for one to fly back to you. Whenever I receive one, I wait for a special moment to read it. I need peace, quiet, a comfy spot and a cup of tea. I have also started writing letters to two friends. It’s not something you do instantly. It’s something you wait until you have time for. And then you go back over everything that has happened since you last wrote and make sure you also address and respond to all their news. This all takes time and that’s what is so nice about it. Knowing that someone took time over doing something for you, knowing the extra effort that went into it – it really is lovely and I feel like people talk differently in letters too. It’s interesting.

Wearing a watch

I got my first mobile phone when I was 19. I think that must have been the last time I wore a watch. I can remember that last watch too because I had it all through my teens and I really loved it. It was a chunky silver Timex and rather than a strap and a buckle to fasten, it was attached to a stretchy silver bracelet. Weird, I know, but it made taking it on and off easier! Gradually it started falling apart and I really missed it. I think I kept the clock head for a while somewhere. After that, phones took over and recently I realised that whenever I need to check the time, I check my phone. I think we all do. But carrying a phone everywhere is getting annoying. They’re not just phones anymore, are they? They’re mini computers we lug around with us, which means we have the entire world in our pocket weighing us down. It’s annoying, especially in the summer when you are less likely to have good pockets! I also thought about all the post-apocalyptic TV I watch and books I read. In that eventuality, phones become useless but watches return. My husband bought me a lovely watch for my birthday and I’m in love with it. I absolutely adore it. I don’t have to take my phone everywhere anymore and I am prepared for the end of the world. Win, win!

Childlike curiosity

There are so many things I don’t know about. I am 44 years old and I still can’t identify that many birds, trees, or plants for example and I know barely anything about the Universe or space… As adults I think we stop being curious. We stop asking questions. I am sure you have all experienced the incessant questioning from a young child who wants to know why, why, why…. I am trying to get back to that. If I don’t know what something is, I am trying to find out. Mostly nature based things! For example, I have a plant identifying app that has helped me learn the names of a lot more plants and trees lately. And I just got this cool app that records and identifies birdsong for you! It’s really addictive.

Collecting stones

Walk around my house and I can guarantee you will find a pile of stones in every room thanks to my youngest son. Like most young children he still has the habit of picking up natural objects that look or feel nice. Sticks and stones mostly. There are sticks everywhere too, though of course really they are guns of various sorts. But stones… I looked the other day and found a pile on the kitchen window sill mixed in with fossils. Another pile on the table. A few more on the side. Some on the stairs. A few in the lounge on the coffee table. A whole gang of them in his room which seem to have been decorated with various spots which apparently mean different things. This stone obsession reminded me that when I was his age I had a whole shoe box of them under my bed. I wasn’t as good as he is at finding cool ones though! He really does have an eye for it. The other day I emptied his school bag and found a whole pile of smooth brown pebbles at the bottom. They were all almost identical in size and colour. Today he brought home a big stone which had been sheared in half at some point, so we could see inside it. My son is right about stones. They are fascinating – apparently pebbles on a beach can be as old as 4 billion years! It’s not like we often get the chance to hold something so ancient in our hands… They can be beautiful, colourful, smooth, jagged, tiny, large. I recently found one with a sad face but then I lost it again, which was sad. Anyway, thanks to my son, my love of collecting random stones just to hold them for a bit has been well and truly rekindled.

Longhand writing

If you follow my social media writing updates, you will know that I often write in longhand. This is also something I have returned to. As a kid I wrote in notebooks of all sizes and shapes. I wrote on anything I could. I was very excited when I got my first electric typewriter! Years later, and it’s all laptops and Word and Google Docs and so on. I still use these things, but I love starting a story off in a notebook. It means I can carry it about with me, write in it at weird times, like when cooking dinner or waiting in the car. Sometimes I end up writing the whole thing in a notebook, just like Black Hare Valley I blogged about last week. Sometimes I’ll get so far then start typing it up. Short stories and poems nearly always start their lives in notebooks these days. There is something about holding a pen in my hand, scratching words out on paper that returns me to me, that makes me feel more connected to it.

What about you? Are there any ‘old-school’ things you have returned to? Or any you never gave up in the first place? I’d love to know so feel free to leave a comment!

Welcome To My Mind!! (Via my notebooks…)

I have a strange addiction to notebooks. I just can’t have enough of them. I have far too many floating around my writing space, but they all serve a purpose, and if any of them were to go missing, I think the wheels would fall off this operation. My notebooks are the physical version of what goes on in my mind. So, I thought I might share them with you. I would be really interested to know if anyone else writes and lives like this!

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My To-Do List Notebook!

Introducing the backbone of notebooks. The one that holds everything else together! My to-do book. I always have one of these on the go and when it’s used up, I buy another A4 sized notebook to replace it. Every Sunday night I write my to-do list for the week ahead. It usually starts off pretty short and gets added to as the week goes by. It will include things like posting my author interview or guest post blogs, my usual Wednesday blog post, making sure my newsletter is drafted, finishing a short story or article, printing stuff out for workshops and so on. It also reminds me to order dog food on Thursdays, and pay for school trips online and so on! I don’t think I could function without a to-do list book. There is something so satisfying about ticking things off as the week goes on! I feel like I am keeping on top of things in all areas of my life, and I’m sure a lot of stuff just wouldn’t get done if I didn’t write them down!

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My Non-Fiction Notebook!

This A5 notebook keeps me on track with all things non-fiction in my life. I list possible blog post ideas in here and tick them off when I have written and published them. I also write down ideas for articles. I use this book to note down ideas, research, and plans for any workshops I might be running for Dorset Writers Network, or for my own venture Chasing Driftwood Writing Group Anything I read that inspires me, any plans I have for the future, I note down in here!

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Current Work-In-Progress Notebook!

All my books have a notebook. The notebook comes into action once the voices get too loud in my head. This notebook is for my current WIP A Song For Bill Robinson. As Elliot Pie is having another round with beta readers, and I am just not ready to revisit the tricky Tree Of Rebels yet, I am having a stab at a YA novel I first attempted when I was sixteen. There are two stories related to this in Bird People and Other Stories. The book is basically written, I am just having to make it better than it is! (Oh the cringe of reading your own teenage writing..!)

PTDC0094.JPGThe Tree Of Rebels Notebook!

Self-explanatory. This is the long and complex story of a novel still not finished, all wrapped up in one now very tatty A5 notebook! We will get there one day with this one!PTDC0096.JPG

Elliot Pie’s Notebook!

Here it is, Elliot Pie’s notebook. As with all my books, this notebook contains character bios, themes, ideas, plotting, and the many, many lists I make when rewriting, which I then go through and tick off. 

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Plans For Unwritten Novel!

Recently a short story I wrote to include in the newsletter, morphed into something far, far bigger. Something quite epic. Something four books long epic. Something I would love to see on TV as a drama series for kids epic. So far I have written mini bios for lots of characters, several short stories which basically serve as sample chapters, and have loosely plotted the book, or books. It is definitely going to be a four book series, and I need to have Elliot Pie, Tree of Rebels and Song For Bill Robinson all done and dusted before I can bury myself in this little beauty for a very, very long time…

There are actually two more notebooks I couldn’t be bothered to photograph. One I take with me to my writing group and workshops so I can note down thoughts on people’s readings, or make plans, or tick people off etc. And the other is my very secret and special Christmas planning notebook! But obviously, I don’t want anyone to see that one!

So how about you? Are you a list person? Do you need to write things down in order to remember them? Maybe you use your phone, or a calendar? Am I the only one who makes use of copious amounts of notebooks at the same time?? Please comment! I love hearing from you!