Monthly Archives: October 2016

Seeking inspiration

Having successfully got a lot of my antsiness out of my system last week, I have found myself since embracing the space left in my days by not currently having any writing or editing to work on. I still have milling around in the back of my brain the intention to write some short stories, but before I do I am going to enjoy gathering some inspiration.

I’d forgotten, actually, how pleasant this phase in the whole writing cycle can be.

Instead of focusing inwards on the worlds laying down roots inside my head it is a time to reach out, into the ‘real’ world and the imaginations of others, and build up my bank of ideas. It is a time to listen, and to breathe; to watch, and to consider. It is a time to learn, consciously and hungrily.

Autumn feels a particularly apt time to be doing this. It is as if I am gathering food for the winter ahead, squirrelling away supplies in my den whilst the ground is still soft enough to break through. I am looking forward, too, to the moment when I can light the fire and curl up in the darkness to nourish my creativity with the embers of my explorations, but I have no fixed intentions yet.

Lots of this preparation has involved reading. I’ve read two whole novels this week – more than I’ve managed in the past couple of months, embarrassingly!

The first is one I’ve been eagerly anticipating for months, Baby X by Rebecca Ann Smith. It didn’t disappoint: I loved the dystopian premise that was woven through it, found the characters flawed to just the right degree and relished the startlingly accurate depictions of motherhood (even if the context itself was highly unconventional!) It is inspiring on so many levels to read a novel written by one of my blogging friends and to love it as much as I did, and it has made me curious to read more from Mother’s Milk Books, the independent publishers who put it out into the world.

The second novel was one I picked up at the airport in Boston in January and had never found the time to read. How to Start a Fire tells the story of three friends as they grow from college students into middle aged women, weaving a complex web of misdemeanours and mistakes along the way. I think I was initially drawn to it because of the promise of strong female characters: they were brilliantly drawn, and the fractured narrative was compelling. I appreciated too the sensitive exploration of mental health issues, something which I am discovering is a recurrent theme in my own writing.

There is also a non-fiction book that I’ve been dipping into, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, which through its particular philosophies is giving me a new lens through which to look at life and the ways we make it mean something.

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Outside of books, I have found myself watching the world intently.

Generally I have been tuning into other peoples’ conversations far more than I probably should, guiltily seeking treasure like a magpie that I can take back and hide away in my nest.

I was moved almost to tears by a family I observed on a bus the other day, and found myself scribbling down their narrative – what I’d seen and what I imagined was behind it – at the earliest opportunity.

The experience reminded me of a blog post that has been ringing in my ears since I read it, a scathing analysis of modern Britain by the brilliant Cash Carraway. I have often found myself paralysed by anxiety in recent months fuelled by a complete disbelief at the mess our society seems to be descending into, but this post reminded me that I could use that anxiety, and the anger that inevitably follows.

I’m still not sure how yet, or in fact where any of this will take me. But for now I am savouring the time I have until, from the spoils of all my scavenging, inspiration strikes.

 

Writing Bubble

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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

This one is so utterly bonkers it makes my heart sing.

We had a bit of a mission of a morning on Friday, getting the bus over to gymnastics which involves forty minutes of walking each way as well as the hour-long bus ride itself. Arthur did nap on the bus, but once we’d eventually made it home it was definitely time to chill and watch a movie.

Except, obviously, this was the position he wanted to adopt, just to get a bit of extra gymnastics practice in.

And he’s getting so tall!

But I’m trying not to think too much about that…

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Why I (still) love wearing my preschooler

The unschooling diaries: week thirty-eight

Arthur is definitely in the process of levelling up again at the moment, and there are so many moments I could write about that I’m struggling on choosing one to focus on!

Seeing as it’s International Babywearing Week, though, I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on our continuing babywearing journey – one thing I am very glad he hasn’t grown out of just yet.

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It certainly raises eyebrows with some people, seeing my tall three year old perched up on my back in one of our trusty preschool Connectas. I suspect they think he’s older than he is – though admittedly plenty of people would balk at still wearing a child of his age anyway!

I don’t wear him as often as I used to, but I still very rarely leave the house without stuffing a Connecta into my backpack – just in case. It gives us the freedom to set off on adventures (in the city or the country) without a particular destination in mind. There are days when Arthur can quite happily walk his ten thousand steps alongside us, but there are others when his legs get tired and all he needs is a cuddle.

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Sometimes he’ll sleep, but often he’ll want to chat. We talk lots when we’re holding hands as well, but there is something about the closeness that babywearing affords that makes the conversation flow even more easily. I was reflecting recently on why babywearing seems to have such a positive impact on language development, and there is no denying that it has helped Arthur become a confident communicator, just as happy talking to adults as he is to children of his own age.

It is an important reminder too that whilst sometimes he seems wise beyond his years he has only been on this earth for less than four, and so much of what he is experiencing balances precariously on the fine line between inspiring and overwhelming.

In fact there are lots of things we do together – many of them revolving around live music – that I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to venture into if I didn’t have the ability to hold Arthur close in the sling, to keep him safe and secure.

I am so grateful that I persevered through those early, sometimes confusing, babywearing experiences to find a way to make it work for us – and especially grateful that Connecta came into our lives when Arthur was eight months old to open up a whole new world of opportunities. It remains my one and only real blog collaboration, but has developed into so much more now that I manage the company blog at Connecta Lives and get to work within a truly inspirational community – one which has given me so much confidence as a parent and as a writer tentatively trying to carve out a new career.

Both Arthur and I have benefited so much from this babywearing adventure: we’ve no intentions of giving it up quite yet!

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The waiting game

I’m in a bit of a quandary over where to take my writing at the moment.

Having decided to stick with pursuing the traditional route for now as far as publishing’s concerned, I have released my third manuscript into the ether for (hopefully) some useful feedback before another round of submissions.

And I guess to be honest if the feedback is not hopeful, then it will give me a mission in terms of either working on a redraft on my own or (and?) searching for other places to submit it.

But for now I am waiting – for the verdict on my latest novel, for the outcomes of a couple of competitions I’ve entered myself into – and it’s making me feel quite antsy.

(Here’s a beautiful picture of the seaside to induce some calm…)

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There is – obviously – plenty to fill my days with. Blogging for Connecta Baby Carrier, grant applications for my beloved local lido, continuing along the unschooling journey with Arthur. It’s not writing though – or at least not WRITING writing.

It’s times like this I feel very grateful for my own blog, and even more for the wonderful What I’m Writing community. It gives me focus, support and accountability without which I might not think twice about letting the WRITING writing slip.

But instead I have spent the last couple of days dwelling on a focus for my #whatimwriting post, and in the process have realised that I need to find a focus for my writing itself.

I thought it might be competitions, but it turns out that besides the Mslexia novel competition that I entered recently there’s very little out there for unpublished novelists. Which I suppose makes sense. I’ve found one other to have a go at – and admittedly haven’t got round to it yet – but that’s not going to be all that much of a step forwards.

Because what I really want to be doing is writing – writing something new. I don’t want to make a start on another novel. I don’t have a pressing idea anyway which makes that option highly unlikely – but I feel like I need to make some headway with the first three (or at least one of them) before I get caught up in another. So I am coming back, in stolen moments of potential creativity, to the idea of short stories.

It was supposed to be my project over the summer. But, you know: summer. It didn’t happen.

Now though? I reckon it might be time. And – exploiting that aforementioned accountability – I am determined to have at least the start of something by this time next week.

I cannot wait to get stuck in to writing something – something new!

 

Writing Bubble

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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

I was up in London again this weekend, this time with Leigh to catch up with old friends.

It wasn’t really an occasion that Arthur could join us for, so he went to stay with Grampa and Mimi. He was so excited in the couple of days leading up to it. It took us ages to be comfortable with leaving him overnight, and all the while we were warned that our reticence would make him way too clingy. It is really lovely now to see him so self-assured that he relishes his opportunities for independence.

Mind you, when a sleepover with his grandparents involves picking apples and blackberries to make pie, collecting sticks on evening walks in the woods and playing ball games with his doggy friends, it isn’t really surprising.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

London calling

The unschooling diaries: week thirty-seven

I love our life in Devon, the sea swimming and beach exploring and cliff walking, but sometimes it is pretty awesome to switch our scenery around and hang out in the city.

The big smoke seems to be calling us a lot at the moment, and last week I had to make the trip up on my own with Arthur. It was a whistlestop visit, and I admit I was dreading it a little bit. But turning what could have been a chore into a bit of an adventure definitely helped.

He’s getting to be quite a seasoned little traveller, and insisted on picking up a magazine for the journey before we boarded the train. Not to read, you understand – but those little plastic toys are just so alluring…

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It was actually a really chilled out journey once we’d got comfy. We had a breakfast picnic, and Arthur was very happy to snuggle up with a movie whilst I caught up on some writing.

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When we got to town, we had a whole afternoon at our disposal before my appointment the next morning. I had in mind a very specific quest: to visit Kings Cross Pond before it closed forever. We missioned it across the city and set off into the forest of cranes and tower blocks – a highly unlikely setting for a natural swimming experience!

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But nestled between the building sites there was a little oasis of calm, and I relished the opportunity to have a dip – even if Arthur did decide it was a bit too cold.

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After our swim we set off to meet a friend – no particular mission this time, just a couple of hours to meander and soak up what the city had to offer. Arthur was drawn to the fountains in Granary Square, made particularly alluring by the sound installation that accompanied them. He stood completely mesmerised before creeping closer until his head was almost up against one of the speakers.

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Unexpected public art was definitely a theme of this trip, and Arthur especially liked the swing we came across in the middle of the street. I’m sure the grown-ups love it too, but there was something pleasingly incongruous about watching Arthur going about the very serious business of swinging whilst everyone continued on their way around him.

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I’m pretty sure Arthur decided that the whole city was a playground to be honest – from random swings to balancing along water features whilst he raced leaf boats over the little waterfalls.

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And then, as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, I realised that we were just around the corner from The Railway Children at the Kings Cross theatre and couldn’t resist some last-minute discount tickets.

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It was already past Arthur’s bedtime, and as soon as we sat down he curled up on my knee for a power nap. Fifteen minutes later though he was woken by the sounds of steam trains and singing and sat completely rapt as the story played out in front of him. It was his first proper theatre experience and he was quite blown away by it all – especially when a real-life steam train pulled onto the stage!

The next day was a bit less exciting as I had a meeting to attend, leaving Arthur playing patiently with his hot wheels cars and chatting away to his toy dog, Merlin who he had insisted on bringing with him in a special doggy sling.

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We did manage to fit in a visit to one of his favourite actual playgrounds – we very rarely visit them in Devon, so it always feels like a bit of a treat. He’s been to this one on trips up to London before, but not since he was much smaller. As soon as we arrived he set his sights on the biggest of the three slides on offer, and circumnavigated it several times, trying unsuccessfully to clamber up the ropes to get to it. Then, though, he watched as a boy not much older than him approached it from a whole other angle – and of course he had to follow.

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After all of this adventuring Arthur was well and truly knackered by the time we began our long journey home – we both were!

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It was well worth the effort though. I am already looking forward to the corners of the city we will discover on our next trip…