Finding Ideas

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last time they were washed

Clouds billowed in from the north today, hiding the critical sun, with its nasty habit of shining a light on my housekeeping deficiencies. They are many, and the sun is far worse than my mother ever was at pointing out cobwebs in the corners, and streaks and smears all over the ranch-sliders.

On a dull day, the windows look quite clean enough. I can still see the neighbours’ bottlebrush tree, hanging over the fence with its spiky red flowers, and the blue-green flash of tui wings dive-bombing the flax bush for nectar. It’s only when the sun shines that there seems to be a thin film of gauze making outside the glass seem a bit blurred – smudged at the edges like a pastel drawing.

callistemon-3360610_960_720I spent quite a long time today, considering windows. The expanse of plate glass in ranch sliders with a view of our driveway seems wasteful – they should be the other side of the house, looking out over the garden. At least the neighbours’ bottlebrush draws attention away from the car. The panels in the dining-room windows make it look like 18 mini-windows – each with their own specialised view of the roses. The two skinny panels of frosted glass in the front door, carved into diamonds by black lead, cast impressive geometric shadows on the wall when the sun shines.

Amongst the smears on the windows in our house are two sets of small handprints. The grandchildren love to use the windows as a lightbox – draw a picture, then hold it face up against the window and draw its reverse image on the back of the paper. I love seeing their resourcefulness.

When I was a kid, our front door had a round window, and when the sun was in the right direction, a perfect gold disc appeared on the hall carpet – as if the sun had fallen to earth, and chosen our house to gift with itself.

Generations of British kids cut their television viewing teeth on what could be seen through the Playschool windows. My favourite was always the arched window.

One window thought led to another. None of them quite coalesced into anything productive – yet. I was thinking windows because I’d received an email about a writing competition that closes next month. I don’t know what I will write yet – if there is an idea forming, the curtains are still closed on it! But it has to be about windows. It’s the theme of the contest, and even if I don’t get a poem written in time, that’s OK, I’ve still got a fascinating subject with plenty of potential to explore. Even if I put it aside to focus on other current writing projects, I’ll put it in my ideas notebook for another time.

An ideas notebook has been one of the best writing tools I have ever used. Although ‘notebook’ is a bit of a misnomer – more accurate is several notebooks kept in strategic places throughout the house, plus another in the car glovebox. When I want to write, but my mind is wiped clean of inspiration, I excavate my notebooks and flip through the pages until something sparks up a connection.

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my grandson’s poem

Sometimes those ideas are single words, like windows. Keys. Gravity (that was inspired by my grandson when he was six and learning about space and gravity, and was so excited by the concept, he wrote a poem). Others are half-written poems, or first lines and last lines with nothing in between. On the laptop I also have a long list of links bookmarked in an ‘ideas’ folder.

But how do you fill the notebooks in the first place? Where do you gather ideas from? Here’s a few of the ideas I always find pay dividends:

Your own life

You might not want to write autobiographical poems or stories, but events in your life are a great starting point for creative writing. What if is a good question to ask – what if I’d had a twin, learned to play piano, witnessed a murder, got lost in the city. What are your wishes, lies and dreams?

Everyday things.

Sleep. Food. Weather. Kitchen utensils. Look around the room you are sitting in and write down 5, 10, 20 objects. Keep the list in your notebook. What did you have for your dinner? What stories lie behind the ingredients that made it on to your plate?

Newspapers and Magazines

These are a great source for ideas. Not just for current affairs, but also social for comment and local interest stories. Some newspapers offices might let you in to see their archived collection. Last year I was fascinated with the hunger stones that appeared across Europe because of the extreme drought, and wrote a poem in response.

Pictures

Photos, paintings, pictures from print media. Take a trip to an art gallery and write some potential poem/story titles in response to the paintings. Using a title as a launch point for a creative piece is an interesting exercise.

Music

Listen to something you’ve never heard before, or a favourite piece. Close your eyes and let the music play round you, then write whatever comes into your head in response.
Lyrics can also be a good source of inspiration – take the first or last line of another poem or song, and use it as the first line of yours. When you’re finished, replace that line with a different one of your own.

Random words

Write a list of 100 or so words – the first ones that come to mind, or picked at random from the dictionary – on separate slips of paper. Store them in an envelope. When you want to write, take a few slips out of the envelope and write someting using those words.

People

Keep a list of people who interest you – family, famous, historical or mythical people. British poet Carol Ann Duffy wrote The World’s Wife, looking at histories, myths etc usually known for the men involved from the point of view of their wives. Fantastic poems – and the possibilities are pretty much endless. Jot down things you observe people doing as you move through your own day. What was in that red bag that man on the bus was clutching so tight to his chest? Who was the women behind you at the supermarket check-out talking to on her phone?

Places

Open the atlas at a random page or spin a globe. Close your eyes and see where your finger lands. Even if you can’t afford to travel, you can always write about other countries – or other places in your own country. Find out where your grandparents were born and write about their birth places.

Fairy Tales

Re-tell fairy tales and old legends, either from your own culture, or research the stories of another. Tell them from a different angle – was the witch in Hansel and Gretel really as wicked as the story says? What would she say for herself?

dazzleMix and Match

Write about a historical person from the country your finger lands on in the atlas. Use five of your random words in a re-telling of Beowulf. In this poem, mixed food and place.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

This isn’t an exhaustive list, by any means, but it’s a good launch point. The thing I find with ideas is having one often generates many others. My daughter suggests apples as a topic and I end up writing one poem about crop circles and another about buying bread at a Danish bakery. It’s win-win – I get two new poems and I still have apples on my ideas list for another time!

If you’ve enjoyed this post and want more writing tips, please follow Verve for future posts, and check out my previous ones. 

 

 

 

 

 

Surprise Gifts

I have gift giving on my mind.

I have bought nothing yet. No cards, no wrapping paper.  Not even a bag of chocolate money, which is one of my favourite treats of the year! christmas-tree-311316_960_720 (1)

It’s not that I don’t like Christmas. It’s just that… well, my homage poem to William Carlos Williams explains it best. I grew up in the northern hemisphere – where even if it didn’t always snow,  chestnuts roasting and Jack Frost nipping were never out of place. But now I live in the southern hemisphere. Sun hat and sun- glasses weather and newborn lambs bounding in green fields don’t shout Christmas to me. Turkey and twenty-eight degrees centigrade aren’t the best partners.

Shopping is always a marathon affair for me nowadays too. Besides being a bit over excessive consumerism, the tendency of my joints to dislocate makes wandering around shops for hours on end looking for the perfect gifts a physical nightmare. To be fair, even if I could walk around for hours, I still hate going shopping. I like walking in the hills and fields or on the beach, not pounding the polished tiles of a shopping mall.

I don’t mind. I’ll save my energy for spending time with the family. Instead, I was thinking about the sort of gifts that don’t come in boxes or bags from retail outlets. The sort of gifts that are more about life experiences and opportunities than material ownership. Like a family trip to the… oops, no, better not say here, they read my blog! My favourite kinds of gifts are ones that people can engage with at an intrinsic, emotional level.

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thank you for the nomination!

Just as I was thinking this, an unexpected gift pinged into my email inbox, making me smile from ear to ear. It was from my friend in Scotland, saying she nominated me for the 2018 Liebster blogging award. Such well-timed proof of what makes good gifts. Sometimes the best gifts are the simplest – a sign of appreciation, something that lifts the heart.

Incidentally, lifting the heart is exactly what my friend does on her excellent blog, Despite Pain. It’s an encouraging, positive-thinking approach to living with chronic pain conditions.

The purpose of the Liebster award is to connect newer bloggers with a wider audience. Each nominee has a set of tasks to complete, like the twelve labours of Hercules. (Those stories were my favourite thing about high-school literature classes.) OK, I don’t have to slay any nine-headed hydras, but I do have to come up with some creative, interesting questions for my nominees, so that could be almost as challenging.

1: Write about what makes you passionate about blogging.

Words. Writing. I love writing, painting pictures with words. I’ve been writing since I was three and figured out black squiggles on paper actually meant something. Nobody else knew what mine said back then, but I knew what the story was. Now I write poems, short stories, blog posts, daft emails to dafter friends, novels, reviews, tweets etc. What I like most about fiction and poetry writing is that it allows me to explore and create worlds and experiences I don’t inhabit. What I like most about blog writing is it allows me to explore the world I do inhabit in more depth and create connections with other people through that exploration. Writing about writing helps me hone my craft, and share my knowledge with others. Writing about pain helps me manage my own needs and offer support to others. Writing about social issues allows me to raise my voice about injustices in the world.

2: Share ten random facts about yourself

I’ve scattered them throughout this post. See if you can find them all.

3: Answer questions set by my nominator

It’s five minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve – you can call one person to tell them how you think THEIR year went… who will you call and what will you say?
I’d call myself, on a time-machine phone. Myself, the same time last year. And I would say, you know that challenge you set yourself? To get your latest poems publication ready and send them off to a publisher to seek their fortune? You did it (and now I have 13 days, 2 hours and 45 minutes to make it true. Plenty of time, no sweat!).

An alien from an unknown planet comes to your house and ask for directions to the most beautiful place on earth. Where will you send him/her/it?
I’d say it had already found the way itself – can’t beat New Zealand!

If you were a season, which season would you be?
I’d make up a new season. A hybrid of spring and summer – a perfect 23 degrees, with an occasional wisp of breeze to keep the air fresh, and rainfall only at night.

Hot, spicy, salty or sweet – which seasoning would you be?
Spicy – so much variety and opportunity!

Think ahead 10 years. Will you wish you had done more with this part of your life? Will you have regrets?
Nope. I do what I can do when I do it. I banned regret from my life a few years ago. I’m not going to regret what I did/didn’t do, I’ll just own it, look at what went wrong, and how to make it right in the future.

That alien has come back… he wants to learn more about [people’s] feelings and behaviour. In no more than thirty words, how would you describe us?
I’d give the alien a dictionary of emotions, and take it out to people-watch.

You’re a fly on the wall. Whose wall?
The Great Wall of China – I’d love to go there. And if that means being a fly, then OK!

Do you have a cure for hiccups?…
My aunt. Once she promised she’d give me 10pence (that was a good rate when I was a kid) for every hiccup –  and they stopped straight away!

What music would you play on a long drive? Or would you rather have silence?
Depends. If we’re on a road trip, and meandering along windy back roads, or through amazing countryside, I’d rather no music because it’s nicer to chat and drink in the views. On a boring, concrete jungle of motorway and high barriers, it’s got to be old rock classics.

The alien… Says that his planet only has happiness and harmony. Invites you and your immediate family on a one way trip to his planet. Would you go?
I love travel adventures! I’d have to negotiate the one way aspect though. One way makes it sound more like a trap than an invitation.

4: Nominate some other blogs for the Liebster award.

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Love animals?
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and a hefty dose of creativity and originality
at  Thoroughly Modern Gillie.

 

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Stephanie Stebbins,
Author
news on past and forthcoming novels
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and some great poems.

 

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Mind over Latte
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5: Create 11 questions for my nominees

If you had to come up with new collective nouns for some animals, what would they be?

If a dolphin had a conversation with a fox, what would they say?

Which is most important – rational thought or emotion?

Imagine you could influence a historical event in some way. What would you do?

What advice would you give to a youngster experiencing their first broken heart?

What would be in your room 101 and how would you overcome the fear?

What makes your heart sing?

What would make you protest-march?

What’s something all your friends love but you think is over-rated?

What’s the best present you’ve ever received?

Fantasy dinner party for 12. Who are the guests (dead, alive or imaginary)?

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And that’s it. Job done. I’m crossing my fingers until 31st December, but meanwhile, I’m off to book that family trip – and I’m still not saying where. Maybe in the next post.

Happy Christmas, everyone.

Moonlight on Broken Glass

dark-3061610_960_720Most writers know that procrastination is one of the biggest issues to stare down. Somehow, especially if you write directly on your laptop, Twitter always beckons with its enticing maze of opinions, arguments and random thoughts. Pinterest can soak up hours of time. You know if you just give it five minutes, you can beat your high score on Tetris. Well, maybe one more time… one more time… Much as I hate domesticity, I have even been known to defrost the freezer or wash the windows when an empty page yawns in front of me.

I’d love to make suggestions on how to beat this, but I still haven’t got it cracked myself. Even when I set limits on my social media fixes, like ‘Write 500 words, then 5 minutes checking notifications’ or ‘No social media until after the sun is over the yardarm’ (I know, it’s meant to be for gin, but it works!) – I can still be diligently typing away and a bus will rumble by on the road beyond our neighbour’s place. I might not hear it, but I will feel the tremor beneath my feet, because this area is soft peat and relays every vibration.

So I pause, figuring out if it is just a bus or a heavy truck, or if I might any moment see the light fittings sway and hear the house timbers creak, and need to make a dash for a doorway and hold on tight while the whole house rocks and rolls to the beat of the shifting earth beneath. Most times, it’s a bus and I can get back to work. But by then, my mind has strayed to the tectonic plates and the different motions earthquakes cause, and how to capture the exact, vertiginous sensation of the aftermath.

I still count this as writing, because I’m still engaged with putting concepts into words, but it doesn’t help progress the current project.

So I’m not going to write about dealing with procrastination – though if you have any suggestions for me, please comment below! Instead, this is a continuation of my post Channelling Chekhov, looking at more ways of using language to invigorate your writing and achieve that glint of moonlight on broken glass.

Personification

This is the act of giving human characteristics to inanimate things, non-human creatures, or abstract concepts. It is imagery using human emotions (love, sadness, pleasure etc.) and human actions (laughing, crying, shouting etc.) to describe things like toy kites, wind, climate change. It makes writing more powerful and emotive. This then engages readers at a deeper level as it helps bring concepts to life using familiar experiences and ideas.

Personification makes for a neat writing exercise. Try writing a story from the point of view, say, of a fork or a raindrop. Or describing a number of objects with human qualities, such as whispering wind, or blank stares of concrete. It also gives a relatable touch to big concepts and creates a vivid visual picture, such as in this short poem I wrote about coastal erosion where I live.

beach eating

Note: anthropomorphism is often confused with personification. They are similar, as both involve assigning human qualities to non-humans. But there is a difference. Personification describes a nonhuman with a human trait, whereas anthropomorphism describes something nonhuman as if it is human.

Metonymy and Synechdoche

These are figures of speech where one thing represents another thing.

  • Metonymy involves an idea being represented by an associated idea e.g. London hosted the 2012 Olympic Games. London here represents all the people involved in arranging the event, but saying London hosted is a cleaner, more simplified form of expression. An easy ride to describe a gentle horse safe for children. Again, it is simplified, but encapsulates the overall meaning.
  • Synechdoche involves using a small part of a thing to represent the whole thing e.g. telling someone keep your nose clean to mean stay out of trouble, or safe pair of hands to mean a reliable, helpful person.

This excerpt from a poem about choosing a pet uses synechdoche:
Reptilian scales, or cautious shells, feather,
hair or lemon-sharp spines? I wonder whether
fish and fowl can live and play together.

There are many examples of both these figures of speech in common usage, so be careful when including them in your writing. A well-crafted figure of speech injects a richness and originality into writing, but regurgitating a cliché can make writing dull and lifeless.

Synesthesia

Synesthesia uses the five senses in writing but combines them in unexpected ways, such as using touch to describe a visual thing, or sound to describe a scent. The rasping blare of sun uses both touch (rasp) and sound (blare) to suggest heat and conjures the sensation of a very hot day at a deep level of understanding just saying it was a very hot day cannot achieve.

Using figures of speech like this allow you to craft precise descriptions that show the reader what you want them to see or feel. They allow you to convey to the reader an experience they may never have had. It was a very hot day will be interpreted the way the reader perceives heat, whereas a specific figure of speech describing how hot the day is helps a reader imagine desert heat, Nordic heat, humid heat, inferno heat etc.

Hyperbole

The art of exaggeration for dramatic effect.

My twin is bold, a clamour of noonday sun,
red spice, and crackling fire. She spits out dragon
flame, fights with demon claw. I’m the quiet one.

It was cold enough to freeze the nose hairs off a polar bear.

Again, if you think about it, there are probably millions of examples of hyperbole (see what I did there?) in our day to day conversations. I’m starving, when it’s more than three hours since you last ate. They’ll kill me, when you are worried someone will be angry with you. There are millions… when you mean a large quantity.  All of those are clichés, and best avoided.

Onomatopoeia

Words that sound like their meanings. Slap, tick, buzz, zip etc. Find ways of using them in an original way e.g ‘I’ve had enough,’ he says, his voice a slap in the air. The dialogue suggests the speaker is angry or fed up, and slap shows a sharp, hard tone of voice. The writer has not stated he is angry, but the reader understands it.

A last comment on cliches…

Clichés detract from your writing – unless there is good reason to use them, such as in dialogue, or reported speech. People often use cliched phrases when talking so an occasional cliché in dialogue helps make written conversations seem more real and natural.

But what is a cliché? It’s a phrase that, newly-minted, was clever and original but becomes over-used. How do you know if a phrase is a cliché? An easy guide is if you have heard, or seen, repeated use of the phrase by more than two or three different people, it’s probably a cliché. You might also have to research common sayings by area.

It’s always possible It was cold enough to freeze the nose hairs off a polar bear is a cliché, if you live in Alaska or Finland, or anywhere else where snow and minus temperatures are a regular feature of the climate. Or maybe if you just share your homeland with polar bears. I know I hadn’t come across it before when I saw a friend use it, and I thought it was a lovely phrase, but sometimes a cliché depends on your audience. If you are writing a book set in England, then phrases like time for a nice cuppa and mustn’t grumble are clichés, never mind being weird and dated stereotypes. But a phrase I’d never heard before I moved here, mad as a meataxe (which I love, it’s so surreal!) is common in New Zealand.

Finally… deceit of lemons

good writing takes practice and crafting, and a judicious use of figurative devices. We don’t need synesthesia in every sentence, or personification in every paragraph. But learning to use all these devices well, and sprinkle them through your writing at intervals, especially where you want to emphasise a particular idea, will definitely make your writing shine.

Channeling Chekhov: 4 tips for writing

home-office-2452806_960_720You know that feeling when your fingers are itching to pick up a pen, or rattle across the keyboard, pouring another creation onto the page? Ideas trip over themselves in your mind and words dance. You’ve carved out a generous slice of interruption-free time. Your favourite music plays in the background. You’ve plenty of water and, in case of a bad affliction of the munchies, you’re prepared with snacks; cashew nuts, Dairy Milk chocolate – if you’re on a health kick, carrot sticks.

The blank page entices. You flex your writing muscles and step out into the realm of blank page. It feels great. You’re racing along, your mind is fizzing, your thoughts are fluent, emotive stream flowing onto the page. You capture everything you wanted to say, and bonus thoughts join the original ideas. You write with no hesitation, no awkward pauses searching for an elusive word, and the poem blooms.

First draft done, you take a break for a coffee. You know you’ll need to proofread and edit, to recraft a few lines here and there, and rethink a couple of weaker words. But you like to leave poems to marinate for a time. Nothing is ever pristine and polished the first time round, so you always make space for a redraft.

You drink your coffee, standing by the kitchen window. Outside, young waxeyes dart through the rose bush, and the sun lassoes their haze of feathers in a green corona. You frown, wondering if in the second verse you really managed to capture just how the sun casts its last light of the day. You remember Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

chekhov pinBefore you file the poem in your redrafts folder, you read it again. Aloud, to capture the pace, flow and rhythm.

Your tongue trips and jams on awkward cadences. Your heart doesn’t feel what your mind promised. And you wonder if, when you were distracted with coffee and waxeyes, some goblin snuck in and substituted a different version of your work. This stream of words is thin, flat. It grasps at big ideas, but where is the elemental punch? It says what you think, but where is the invitation to readers to feel, to care? Where is the poem you thought you had written? Where is the verve? The light, the broken glass?

This experience will be familiar to most writers. And even if it’s not so extreme, the writing, marinating, rewriting process is essential to creativity. But how do you capture the ‘glint of light on broken glass’ in writing? Just writing the light of the moon glinted on the broken glass is an improvement on the moon shone but it’s not the most riveting description.

Well, here is how. You fill your writing toolbox with a full set of tools to enhance your craft. Here are four simple tools to start with:

Choose strong, active verbs

Words that convey specific detail give clarity to your writing. If you are describing somebody walking, think how you want the character to appear: purposeful, slow, angry, shy etc. Avoid adverbs. While adverbs do sometimes have their place, they tend to slow the writing down without adding anything substantive. There is almost always a more precise and evocative active word you can choose. Instead of she walked purposefully, try she strode to the door, she arrowed towards her car… Instead of he walked slowly, try he strolled along the street, he wandered from door to door, he ambled up the hill... Instead of they walked angrily, try they stomped out of the room, they stamped downstairs, they marched away... Instead of we walked timidly try we tiptoed out of the shop, we crept through the house, we drifted away from the crowd…adult-3052244_960_720

Create Imagery using the Senses

The five senses are powerful facets of our experience and using them in your writing will add another dimension, helping your readers engage with your poem/story etc at a visceral level as well as intellectual. Avoid obvious structures like he felt, she heard, but suggest in a subtle way using relevant imagery.

Sight from an unrequited love poem set in a Danish winter: I’m standing on solid water and it sings / beneath my feet. Here, sky meets land / in a fold of wedding-dress cloth.

Soundfrom a poem of loss and remembering: I wish my ears were conch shells / to hold the breeze of her voice.

Smell from a poem about being stranded overnight on a beach: They arrived at noon, smelling / of city dust and petrol fumes

Touchfrom a poem about people trying to make you change yourself: He chiselled me into shape / and chamoised me to shine.

Tastefrom a poem about an old lady reconnecting with an old friend after 30 years: But her pasted mouth never savoured an alphabet / of sweet stuff. Honey. Milk chocolate. Plums. / What tickles her tongue is oniony and raw.

Construct Similes and Metaphors

Make good friends with these two. They are simple, effective ways of leading the reader by their intuition and their heart. They will enrich your writing by making descriptions more emphatic and vivid. Well-constructed and judiciously applied (overuse of anything will soon make writing appear forced), they convey a fuller, more satisfying picture than a straight description such as the crowd was small or it was a hot summer. Use them to enhance the mood, meaning and theme of your writing.

Similemakes a comparison of one thing to another of a different kind. From a poem I wrote, referring to the shrinking number of people attending Armistice Day services: Yet on the 11th of the 11th , / the crowd at the cenotaph / is as thin as a poppy petal.

Avoid cliches. They make your writing dull and lazy, and lose the attention of your readers. 

Metaphor suggests one thing as if it literally were another. From a poem about hunger stones  appearing in parts of Europe due to the drought this summer: climate convulsions make summer / an abscess

Avoid mixed metaphors, e.g. in his mind’s eye, he heard the resonant notes of the piano fading away. This doesn’t make sense: mind’s eye suggests vision, not hearing and resonant means deep, clear sounds continuing to reverberate, not fading. Using a metaphor that contradicts itself is jarring.

Extended Metaphor – (sustained metaphor/conceit) metaphor developed over several lines, or an entire piece of writing. They allow a writer to develop a theme, digging deeper into similarities between the metaphor and the concept it compares.

writing-923882_960_720Don’t forget, these tools are not just for poetic or literary writing. All writers need to capture the attention and keep the interest of readers. Showing the glint of light rather than announcing the moon is shining energises speeches, plays, articles etc. Next time you write, practice channeling Chekhov and see the difference.

Look out for more writing tips soon. Until then, here’s an old poem of mine using an extended metaphor:

women are like fruit png


 

 

 

Stringing a Necklace

saturnsmallBack in another century, when I still had all my milk teeth, the concept of the year 2000 loomed large in my imagination. And not just mine. It dominated schoolyard games and conversations. We knew we would all be so old by then… 34! We were certain bikes and cars would be relegated to the scrapheap, and we’d zip around everywhere in personal spaceships.

Everybody’s brains would be tuned in to a massive television screen that could read our brainwaves and transmit our thoughts at a press of a button to anyone, anywhere in the universe. I wasn’t so keen on that idea: even back then, I loved writing, and the thought that people could read my stories in my head before I’d finished them was a bit disturbing.

Holidays abroad wouldn’t mean travelling to other countries. No way. We’d be rocketing off to the moon and other planets. ‘Other’ always included planets nobody had discovered yet, that were waiting behind a curtain of spacedust for us to discover them. Although I have to admit, I set my route finder for the southern hemisphere just as often as for Saturn. In school assembly, we’d had a presentation/photo show from a seventies version of inspirational speaker.

They’d been to New Zealand, and when I heard about black sand, volcanoes, pumice stones as big as your head lying around on the beach, the Maori haka, kiwis, dense sub-tropical bush, boiling mud pools and natural hot springs, I knew I had to go there too someday.     

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boiling mud at Wai-O-tapu and black sand beaches at Taranaki

Of course, some of our imaginings about the future turned out not to be too far from reality.  I did get to New Zealand, though I conceded to travelling on a conventional aeroplane. Just in time for Christmas on the beach in 2005, my daughter and I took the plunge and emigrated from England.

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Kapiti Island from Paraparaumu

Twitter and Facebook are pretty close to that tv screen. And with the internet, we can write our blogs and share them around the world in a matter of seconds. We’re not quite zipping round in spaceships, but hey, there’s drones to do that for us, satellites relay our communications, and Elon Musk did just launch a car into space.

It turned out 34 wasn’t so old either. Or 44. Or 5… nope, not quite there yet. But old, I discovered, is a wildly fluctuating concept. I don’t plan on being it until I’m at least in my eighties. But life is full of unexpected twists and turns and it seems my body has other plans. My mind is still the curious, creative, imaginative thing it was when I was a primary school kid, but my body has aches and pains far beyond its vintage.

Six years ago, the shooting pains in my jaw, teeth gums and throat I’d been experiencing intermittently for around 40 years, spread into my ear and rest of my face, becoming extreme and permanent. I’d also developed symptoms of cluster headache, which complicated diagnosis, and a whole bunch of other symptoms that didn’t seem to fit under any particular diagnostic umbrella. After many hospital trips, tests, neurological exams, dental surgeon exams, months of research, and second opinions, the face pain was diagnosed as Trigeminal Neuralgia. necklaceOver the next few years, those other random symptoms presented a clearer picture, mainly by virtue of getting worse, and more diagnoses arrived. If rare conditions were beads, I’d have enough to string a necklace.

Chronic pain/chronic health conditions force big changes, place tight limitations on life. This is why I first started a blog. I’ve loved writing since I was very young, creating poems, stories, and novels, sending silly letters to friends. I’ve had a few published pieces amongst my poems, and won a few poetry competitions over the years. I’m focusing this year on a collection of international poems, and getting my novels publisher-ready.

Through adjusting to the reality of living with disability, I also discovered the potency of therepeutic writing. My first blog posts were thoughts on what I was dealing with, reflections on the attitudes and thoughts that helped me sustain myself. I realised too, that my posts helped sustain other people. And so I write. I write opinions, because I have a lot of them. I write poems, because everyone needs to experience the world through different eyes. I write about writing, because I have insights to offer. I write about my health conditions because it helps. I choose Verve, because pain and disability doesn’t have to mean you stop loving life.

Filling a Time Capsule

box-2842496_960_720Public places are great for people-watching and collecting gems of overheard conversations. Over lunch in a cafe the other day, I heard people on the next table discussing time capsules.

They were sharing ideas for things they could seal inside one for 30-plus years, things that would encompass who they are, what’s important to them now, in 2018.

Then my pizza came (if you ever visit Wellington, New Zealand, the Bellbird Eatery at the Dowse Art gallery probably serves the best traditional pizza in the area!), and hunger overcame curiosity about what items they planned to include.

But their conversation got me thinking, about what makes us who we are, and things we want to leave behind. I love this quote from Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. To live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.” I can’t think of four better achievements to aim for in a lifetime, although I’d add “to laugh” to the list.

Blogging is a bit like a time capsule, capturing moments that reflect life as it is being lived, and standing as a witness, later, when memory might have faded.

Pretty much everything I write about is encompassed by Covey’s categories. Poems, social comment, how to live well/ cope with chronic pain. Writing about writing.

But I’m not going to hide my writing away in a musty old box buried underground for thirty years or more.

It will be right here, for anyone who cares to read it.