Monday, 3 November 2014

Being a writer first

It's been a few weeks since I last blogged, mostly because I've been snowed under with Off the Shelf events. It's been great fun but a lot of stress and made me reflect again on where I put my time and energies. The freelance career is always a juggling act (albeit it a fun and colourful one), but the juggling act of a freelance single mother with a sick child is even more complex. Once I've factored in the time spent arranging childcare for evening events (and in some cases paying for babysitters) and the emotional energy expended in dealing with children who say things like "can't you do a different job where you don't have to go out in the evening?", I've been wondering whether it was all worth it.

On the plus side I got to feel like my old self again. I rediscovered the reader development worker in me when I ran the Book Buddies event; I engaged with interesting discussions about being a writing mother at the Writing Motherhood event and I enjoyed hearing new writers share their work at the Fiction Slam. I also enjoyed doing some coaching as part of the Inner Critic event. Most importantly, I got to feel like a real writer when I read my novel as part of the event about doing an MA and perhaps I put myself back in the public eye as a writer to some extent and maybe this is important. The financial gain wasn't so great. I earned a few hundred pounds for an awful lot of work.

Thinking about it now, perhaps the most important thing I did as part of the festival was submit a little piece of writing for the Shedloads of Work website. I was promoting the initiative with my literature development hat on and then, at about 10pm decided, as a writing exercise, to write something about my own workspace and submit it before the midnight deadline. And now it's live and it's pleasing to have a piece of my writing, albeit it a small one, in the public arena. You can view it here along with other writing by new and established writers:

I end my piece talking about my office space and the little piece of paper that is stuck to my wall which says "I'm a writer first". It's a mantra that came out of a coaching session with life coach Andy Leigh who ran the Inner Critic masterclass and it's something I go back to. Running events is fun. Writing is something more than that and it's where I should put my energy. So, festival over, I'm back to my writing projects and am sending my young adult novel out again. And I reflect that my renewed enthusiasm for doing that is also something that has come out of being around published authors and discussing my writing journey at the MA event. I want to be known as a writer, not just as a facilitator of other people's dreams.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Can a woman be a writer and a mother?

Tracey Emin has been making the news again. She's perhaps as famous for being controversial as she is for her art and she will have raised the hackles of many women artists this week with her statements about the incompatibility of the creative path and that of motherhood. 

In an interview with Red magazine, she said

'I don’t think I’d be making work (if I were a mother). I would have been either 100% mother or 100% artist. I’m not flaky and I don’t compromise. Having children and being a mother… It would be a compromise to be an artist at the same time. I know some women can. But that’s not the kind of artist I aspire to be. There are good artists that have children. Of course there are. They are called men. It’s hard for women. It’s really difficult, they are emotionally torn. It’s hard enough for me with my cat.'

Initially I was kind of following her train of thought and having some sympathy with it. Being an artist does require an uncompromising commitment to something that is esoteric and hard for other people to understand. It requires focus and dedication and unsociable hours. It requires a brain that can think straight, or rather a brain that can think tangentially and metaphorically and that's not always compatible with holding information about feeding and nap schedules, dentist's appointments and the buying of children's party presents. Being a childless artist has got to be the easier path.

My own daughter has always been precocious and when she was three, she announced to me, "I'm not going to have children. They would get in the way of my art and I'd have to ignore them." Out of the mouths of babes........ She's changed her views slightly now and would quite like baby twins conceived by donor so that she doesn't have to bother with the annoying issue of finding a husband. She's probably realised that, unless you choose carefully, they can get in the way of your art too. 

Tracey Emin has neither a husband, nor children, and she seems to have done pretty well in the art business so maybe she has a point. But I lost sympathy with her when she made her comment about
good artists that have children being called men. Clearly she was being deliberately inflammatory but it kind of undermines the many many examples of great women artists and writers who have managed to combine the two. Ok, so I doubt that any of them would say it has been easy, but they did it. And women the world over continue to do it. And the comment about being emotionally torn seems to put women (and men) back in a very traditional box to me. Don't fathers who are artists sometimes feel emotionally torn too? As responsible men take on a greater role with childcare, male artists and writers are struggling too. I know several who are quite open about the challenges. And the rewards. 

As for myself, I find combining writing and motherhood to be immensely challenging. Combining writing, motherhood and working is even harder. If I hadn't had children, I would undoubtedly be further on with my writing career now. Equally, if I'd had a supportive partner, I would have done better. At Writing Yorkshire's Pick Up Your Pens festival, novelist, Gavin Extence's advice to young writers was to "get a wife". I've said on many occasions that this is what I need. Who doesn't? Even a wife must need a wife. And with writing or art, as in every other walk of life, if men and women shared housework and childcare, women's lives would be a lot easier. Unfortunately, in my case, a wife hasn't been forthcoming so far. Instead I continue to juggle. This morning I have been writing this blog whilst cooking potatoes for my allergic child, promoting Off the Shelf events and putting away the shopping. It's not ideal but it's the way of life I'm used to. I do it because when I was a child like Edie I said that the two things I wanted to do with my life were to have children and to be a writer. While plenty of women can be fulfilled mothers without careers and other women are fulfilled career women without the need to have children, I am somebody who would have felt incomplete without both. Call me greedy. I want it all. And I want to be a role model for my daughter (and my son). Last week Edie wrote a story at school and was asked to read it out to the class. The teacher asked her if she wanted to be an author when she grew up. How proud were we both? As it happens she wants to be an eco pop star, a brain surgeon, an explorer and a fashion designer (as well as mothering her baby twins as a single parent). Maybe she's a bit ambitious but hey, better that way than thinking she belongs in the kitchen.

If you'd like to join the debate about writing motherhood, I'm chairing an event of that name at Off the Shelf on Saturday 18th October. I'm really looking forward to it as it's a subject that is close to my heart. Please come along:

Monday, 29 September 2014

On boundaries

I've always been interested in exploring boundaries. I'm tempted to say that I like grey areas but grey isn't a colour I feel comfortable associating myself with so I'll say that I like rainbows instead; the boundary where sunshine and rain meet, creating something colourful and transient.

In life, being interested in exploring boundaries can be somewhat hazardous both personally and professionally and I've had a bit of experience of that. When you're young taking risks can feel thrilling and soul-destroying in equal measure. Having had a bit too much of the soul-destroying, in life, I'm trying to get better at having clearer boundaries. Thankfully writing is a place where I can still take risks though without causing too much damage and I realised today that issues of boundaries come up in lots of my writing. In fact, I'm concurrently writing three books at the moment and boundaries are a feature of all of them.

Recently I've been editing my young adult novel, Straight on Till Morning, for the umpteenth time. The book deals with the relationship between Lorna: a young, middle class volunteer literacy tutor and Tag: her homeless student. It's based on some of my early work experience in community and youth work, where I'll admit that I struggled with maintaining my professional boundaries. When you're a compassionate human being, it's hard to know where to draw the line between a professional role and the responsibility to be humane, hard to go home at the end of the day and leave your work behind. Lorna also struggles with this when she bumps into Tag when he is begging in Sheffield city centre.

 She looked at Tag. She should bring him with her. He must be frozen. It seemed ridiculous to leave him here. She was sitting close enough to him that she could feel him shivering in the cold. Then she remembered the last time she’d been to town with her mum, when she’d stopped to buy The Big Issue. “Do you have to do that, darling?” her mum had said, like she’d been caught picking her nose. Somehow when she pictured Tag sitting across the table from her mum with a cappuccino, it just didn’t work.

In spite of Lorna's initial recognition that she and Tag are from different worlds, gradually the boundary between these worlds becomes eroded and the pair embark on a romantic relationship, not to mention an exciting road trip.

I'm also involved in working on the final draft of a book for the Donor Conception Network which will be published next year. Entitled Archie and Jemima: The Family Detectives, the book tells the story of donor conceived twins as they unravel their personal and family history as part of a school project. It's a factual book told as fiction and it is also a book full of grey areas or, more accurately, a  colourful patchwork, as it deals with the essence of what makes a family in a diverse and modern society. It's an uplifting book that affirms each of us as unique individuals with an important part to play in this world.

The new novel that I'm working on, provisionally entitled, Perhaps, also deals with boundaries, this time between friendship, sex and love. Twenty years on from when they missed their chance to be together, Jack (a married father), and Miriam (a divorced mother), continue their friendship online and their conversations push the boundaries of platonic friendship to their limits. Seen through different lenses, their communication could be perceived as harmless fun, philosophical engagement, true love or dangerous flirtation. It makes both of them question the paths that they have taken through life and what they want to do with their remaining years.

All of my writing (aside from Archie and Jemima) has elements of autobiography in it, although what grows from a seed of something factual mutates into something that ultimately is entirely fictional. Sometimes I work stuff out in fiction in the same way that poets often explore their own life experiences in poetry. Usually I don't know what I'm trying to work out until the book is finished. This was the case with my children's book, Under the Indigo Waves, which started from a memory of myself as a child on a beach but which ended up being a book about grief following the death of my father.

Like Miriam, in Perhaps, I'm approaching middle age (or maybe I'm already there) and wondering how to spend the second half of my life. I've not done things in a conventional way, although, as Archie and Jemima know, there isn't really a normal way to do things these days. On Friday night I sat with my daughter, Edie, looking at photos from my past. For the first time she realised that I'd been married before I met her father from whom I am now separated. I was worried how she might react but she thought it was hilarious that I'd been married and not had children and then had children without getting married. Thankfully, she's a free spirit, like me, and wasn't phased at all. But, as I know in my role as her mother, even a free spirit needs boundaries. I started my most recent book, Perhaps, because, like all of my books, it was the book I needed to write. Perhaps I'm writing this book to think about what I might do next. And, as time, and the writing, goes on, I feel a shift taking place within me. My first book, Once Upon a Pony Tail, ended with the rejection of the fairy tale happy ending of marriage and a reassertion of individuality and freedom. But I have a feeling that Perhaps might end up going in the opposite direction. I have a feeling now that having clearer boundaries might actually lead to greater freedom in a relationship and in life. And I have a glimmer of hope that perhaps I might have found someone to explore these boundaries with.

Monday, 22 September 2014


I've been a bit quiet on the blog front recently, partly because I've had the children at home for the summer holidays but partly because I've been reflecting on this writing business and particularly on the business of self-promotion.

I went to a fantastic Writing Yorkshire masterclass run by my colleague, Iain Broome, a while back and it gave me a lot of food for thought about how to create an "online platform" for my writing. It made me think that I need to resurrect my website (which has been on my to do list for about 2 years) and that I need to blog regularly (oops!) I was also inspired by Iain's Write for Your  Life podcast and thought it would be fun to try that one day. And I need to tweet. But most of all, of course, I need to write. And, I have, at least, started to get back to this recently.

On Saturday, I read with some colleagues from the Sheffield Hallam MA in Writing in a Wakefield Literature event about the pros and cons of doing an MA. Reflecting on my writing journey, I reminded myself of how consistently I have been close to publication only to give up and change direction. So, I'm trying not to do that any more. I won a Northern Writers' Award for my young adult novel, Straight on Till Morning, last year and, following a few positive and constructive rejections from agents, I have kind of put it away and started a new book, which I read from on Saturday. I'm pleased with the new book and I want to pursue it, but first I am going back to the young adult novel and editing it again in preparation to send it out again. In the light of recent news events, it is topical again and I should seize that moment.

The other thing I've been reflecting on with regard to my blogging and my author persona, is the diverse range of things I write about. I'm considering creating a pseudonym for my adult writing (the new book) and keeping my own name for my children's and young adult writing as this is where my professional reputation lies. But then which persona would I blog in? All very confusing. Watch this space and I might work it out soon.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

On mindfulness, meditation and raisins

I've been meaning to practice mindfulness for years, decades actually. But I've been too busy to make time for it which seems laughable now. I first discovered meditation when I discovered buddhism about ten years ago. I did an introduction to Buddhism course at one of the Buddhist centres in Sheffield and, whilst the teachings made intuitive sense to me, I found the meditation excruciating; sitting still has never been my strong point. And so, it turns out, I gave up the bit of the philosophy that I needed the most.

I decided to start it up again recently when a friend recommended the book Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. At the same time, the local Coaching Exchange (a network of life coaches), ran a mindfulness session in Sheffield so I went along. As their introduction to the topic both the book and the session used an exercise in which you had to focus the full five senses on eating a raisin. The results were profound and led to this poem for me. It occurred to me that actually, in so many writing exercises that I've done and facilitated, I have actually been practising mindfulness all along. So much of the writing life is about paying attention, trying to find the perfect form of expression for both simple, concrete things and complex abstract emotions. It is about noticing the beauty and the horror of reality. And, as I said in my last post, it is also something that my children encourage me to do all the time as well. So, suddenly, I feel less like a novice. I hope you like the poem.

The raisin meditation

First we are invited to look.
Not just to glance.
To really look.

I take in the shrivelled skin,
try to name the particular hue of brown:
it has hints of red, shades of rust, echoes of black.
I come up with the inevitable similes and metaphors:
it is like rabbit droppings or the skin
of a sun-kissed matriarch on a Greek porch.

Then we must feel it.

I close my eyes and roll it inbetween my fingers.
It bumps along like an ill-made wheel.
It is rough and tough on the surface but
when I press the skin
it is soft at the centre.
Squeeze it hard enough and it will
ooze it's juice like tears on my fingers:
the cracks are showing now.


I put the raisin to my ear expecting only silence
but, in the stillness, when I pay attention
I can hear the tiniest of voices
longing to be heard:
I was once cool like you, it says.
I was plump and fresh and green.
But wrinkles are just the lines of life
and experience has made me sweet.

Smell me.

I bring the raisin to my nose,
breathe in deep
like I'm inhaling the bouquet of a fine wine
or the scent of a rose.
Something so small has never smelled so good,
like caramel and sugar and sunshine.

Taste me

It is the end of the journey for the raisin.
It rests on my tongue and we savour
our last moment together.
I hold it in my mouth, taste the flavour, then
chew it like toffee between my teeth,
feel solid melt into liquid.

And then I swallow
and I am swallowing not just the raisin,
but this tiny glorious moment.
And not just this moment but all the
moments that went before:
the grape, the vine,
the hands that tended the vine,
the sunshine and the rain.

In this one tiny raisin,
I taste life and, in this moment,

it tastes good.

Monday, 16 June 2014

To be free or not to be?

I spent a lovely day on Saturday with an old friend. He's a fellow Aquarian and this may or not have something to do with the fact that he's something of a free spirit, like myself. As a childless man, he was asking me whether having children is really all it's cracked up to be. People with children, like people who are married, often seem determined to convince friends that theirs is the only valid path through life and that if you're unmarried and don't have children there must be something wrong with you. Personally I don't think there's anything wrong with either state and I have childless friends who enjoy talking to me because, although I love my children, I'm honest about the fact that having children is a mixed blessing.

Having children is a lot of hard work and harder for me because my youngest child has a rare condition (along with other health issues) called Eosinophilic Colitis. It makes him allergic to just about everything and foods, viruses, pollens and chemicals flare up his colon causing him pain. And his pain is my pain, not just because I wish I could take it away from him, but because it causes him to wake at night (and wake me) and it also makes his behaviour a challenge. The disease is quite literally a pain in the arse. Sometimes I wonder why some other mums of sick children seem to cope better with the illness then I do and I think it's to do with their aspirations and where they get their happiness from. Some women seem to get most of their joy from their home life. For me my biggest joy has always been my work. My happiness comes from exploration. I love to explore myself and others and I love to explore the world. I love to write and play and create. I love to be spontaneous and I like the idea that we should try to make the most of every moment: carpe diem and all that. The way I used to live has been massively impacted by the needs of my child. I was never a domestic creature and now I spend hours and hours lovingly creating food that he can eat and delight in and I can't leave the house without bags of food and hypoallergenic formula. Travelling has become an enormous challenge where there used to be nothing
I liked more than hopping on a plane with a backpack and only the vaguest notion of where I was going. Now, if I go away with my child, I can only go to countries where they sell butternut squash (one of his two foods) and I can only stay in accommodation that is equipped with cookers, fridges and freezers. I pretty much do need to travel with the kitchen sink.

Sometimes I wonder if I would swap it all for my previous childless existence. The truth is I couldn't wish my children away. They are beautiful, joyful creatures who fill my life with laughter and happiness just as much as they cause me stress and worry. They restrict my life massively, but, at the same time, children are experts at delighting in the minutiae of life and they remind me to pay attention to this moment in all its wonderful detail: this tiny snail on the path, the petals of a sunflower, a rainbow in the sky. Children live in the present where the rest of us are mostly looking to the future or reliving the past, whether that be through rose-tinted nostalgia or regret.

A counsellor once said to me that marriage was a good thing because the restrictions of the union enabled more growth in the two individuals than constantly moving on and trying again. Maybe children are the same. There is no commitment greater than the commitment to children. We can't swap them and move on when they're not behaving the way we'd like them to. So, we have to challenge ourselves to find ways to keep loving them in spite of everything. Sometimes putting someone else's needs above our own is the most challenging path there is.

It made me think about poetry. I love to free write, to just let the pen flow onto the paper without worrying about my direction or the point of what I'm writing. It's pure creativity. But, sometimes, poets enjoy the challenge of working with the restrictions of a form. In formal verse, you have to work harder to create something beautiful and meaningful. Maybe marriage or parenthood is the same.  The easiest path isn't always the most rewarding. This article about parenthood has always resonated with me. Maybe carpe diem isn't the right motto for a parent. And maybe we can find creativity in new places, such as making interesting recipes out of two foods!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Fiction, feminism and old flames

As anyone who knows me will attest, I am fascinated by romantic relationships. It's my favourite topic of conversation and the inspiration for pretty much all of my poetry, so it makes sense that I would choose to write fiction about the subject as well. And I have done, twice.

My first novel, Once Upon a Pony Tail  was written when I got divorced at the tender age of twenty-six. It's a kind of intelligent (I hope!) chick lit novel about a young woman rediscovering herself as a single woman post-divorce. Not autobiographical at all ;) Interspersed with the narrative of the main protagonist are various revisionist stories about fairytale heroines. The myth of the one true love/handsome prince rescuing his victim, erm princess, and locking (looking after) her in a tower or castle is another aspect of romantic relationships that has interested me since the days when I discovered feminist criticism at Leicester university.

My friend and fellow novelist, Stacey Sampson, described me as a paradox (with "oceanic depths" no less) the other night and back then, I probably embodied some of the same paradoxes that I do today, one of which is the romantic, heterosexual feminist. In those days I floated around like some kind of nostalgic Bronte-esque figure in petticoats, hats and pinafores, with my only nod to feminism being my steel toe-cap Doc Martens. Nowadays I've swapped my Doc Martens for my Fly boots and my petticoats for slightly shorter, pretty dresses but I'm still basically a girly girl on the surface with a steely independence underneath. Regardless of my tutor's opinion that I couldn't be a feminist without wearing trousers, I believed it was okay to be a pretty feminist back then and I still do; feminism has nothing whatsoever to do with the length or existence of skirts or hair in my humble opinion. I was then and still am, desperately independent and just a tad eccentric, but at the same time I longed to be rescued by a handsome prince and, whilst I vehemently rejected the misogyny of my family background, I still spent most of my university years passively dreaming of  my own handsome prince (aka my lovely archaeologist  friend from the veggie table of Digby halls) hoping that he would notice me. In the spirit of not buying into those fairytale cliches, he ran off with a different princess to whom, I have recently discovered, he is still married, damn him!

Everybody has somebody that they never quite got over and he is mine, although I was oblivious to this fact until recently when I realised that I'd named the male character in my young adult novel, Tag, after him. I recognise him now in the description of Tag walking away from Lorna who is, to some extent, my eighteen year old self. And, it is the joy of being a fiction writer, that, in that novel, Lorna gets to kiss Tag (and then some....) whereas the object of my real life affections came within inches of my lips in 1992 before pulling away and telling me about the girl who is now his wife.

I know she's still his wife because I foolishly contacted him via social media recently and embarked upon a long and tortuous discussion about love, life, marriage, monogamy and fulfilment. It is a conversation which has been fascinating and heartbreaking in equal measure. I haven't done a word count on our messages but it is probably nearly long enough to make a novel and the subject is certainly interesting enough. So, I've decided to reincarnate him as a character in a second novel which, this time will be for adults. It will be a novel about what happens when the one who got away comes back and about how the decisions we make at pivotal points change the course of our lives forever. It will also be about the relative merits of monogamy and marriage versus freedom, autonomy and variety and somewhere in there will be the exploration of those grey areas of when flirtation becomes infidelity and how much our morality is fixed or subjective.

Although I've seen myself mostly as a writer for children and young adults in recent years, that first book that I wrote in my twenties was very nearly picked up by Ali Gunn at Curtis Brown who said that she believed it could be a bestseller. She phoned me and said that she was only interested in the kind of novels that could make her 'hundreds of thousands of pounds' and, eventually, she got too busy with those kind of projects and forgot about my little beginner's novel. But, as a person who had that kind of encouragement, who is still fascinated by love and marriage, it makes sense to go back to the subject.

I'm 43 now and single again for the first time in a decade and, whilst I haven't stayed with one man for as long as many people, I've had experience of lots of different kinds of relationships and I've had a lot of thoughts on the subject. I'm still not sure if I'm any wiser about how to make relationships last but I'm certainly more experienced. I've still got no idea if the free spirit in me (the part that is the writer) can function in a traditional relationship and yet the romantic in me still wants to believe that there is someone for everyone and still has to hope that the person for me didn't marry someone else back in the 1990s because that would really suck. So, I'm investigating the subject and writing the novel and hoping that I might work it out whilst having some fun along the way. I've started by chatting to men I know about their relationships and their views on marriage. I'm targeting men because I already talk a lot to women about this kind of stuff and I'm figuring that getting to understand men better might help me choose more compatible partners in future.  So far, I have the conversations with my long lost love and I've now added to them with the musings of a random stranger on the train to London and a friend who is in an open relationship. All very interesting stuff.

If you want to talk to me about your own relationships and your views on marriage, freedom, monogamy, fidelity or anything else, please get in touch and I will buy you cake! If you don't want to talk about this subject and you are my friend, you might want to lay low for the next six months because I could become even more single-minded than usual.

Friday, 2 May 2014

How do writers write?

I've just started a new novel. It's exciting for me because I've not started a new novel for a while. I love setting off on a voyage of discovery with the characters. I have a vague idea of the theme of the book and a vague idea who the characters are but, for me, the process of writing fiction is very similar to the process of reading it. I write in order to work out what will happen, in the same way that anyone who knows me will confirm that I talk in order to work out what I think. Which doesn't always go down well with some people!

This morning I dropped my six year old at school and the tables were already set out with today's story-writing task. The school employs Pie Corbett's WALT system which, when I read about it, sounds like a really effective way to get children writing, but I couldn't help feeling faintly depressed when I saw the grid of writing prompts. What is your setting? Who are your characters? What will happen? If I saw that, I would immediately have writers' block. I didn't know where the male protagonist of my book lived until I described his garden. I didn't know where the female character worked until she walked through the door of the library that, it turns out, she manages. If I had to know everything about what's going to happen in my story, I wouldn't get off the starting blocks.

Lots of writers I know do plot their novels carefully and maybe it works for them but the joy for me is setting out with an unknown destination. And maybe six year olds need a bit of structure for their writing sometimes. But when I watch my daughter with a pile of cardboard and scissors, glitter and glue, she doesn't have any idea what she's making and she's utterly enthralled by the process of creative discovery. Writing doesn't have to be any different. All you need is the material of words, the glue of grammar and the glitter of imagination. It would be nice to see a bit more of that in schools.

Friday, 25 April 2014

I would swim more rivers

Last time I came to Ty Newydd two years ago, I packed my swimsuit but never swam. This time I promised myself I would, even though it is April this time and not June. I was going to do it yesterday when the sun was scorching but I got absorbed in my writing and vowed to swim today. And today it was grey and rainy. But I knew I couldn't live with myself if I didn't go. So I did. I swam in the sea on the North Welsh coast in April in the rain and it was glorious, freezing, but glorious.

As a writer to say that something takes your breath away is a cliche and really, how often does that happen? But, diving into the sea in April really will snatch your breath and invigorate your senses and free your mind. I'm going to do it more often :)

I have had a wonderful week here on the NAWE and Lapidus retreat. I always do. I have sent off one novel and started another, written loads of poems and chatted with fascinating women (apologies to the men but they just weren't so cool). And, just now, I found this stone on my windowsill.

We did one writing exercise about why we write and the piece I wrote seemed to resonate with the women here. So I'll share it with you and maybe it will mean something to someone else. And it features those daisies again.

Why do I write?

I write because what else is there but the flow of ink on paper?
Because, sitting here with this pen in my hand,
hearing the pens of neighbours pouring forth, I feel at home.
I feel whole. I feel this is where I belong.
And sometimes, all of life feels a distraction from this motion
of pen on paper, of fingers on keyboard.

I write to give voice to the secrets of my heart,
to be voluble and free like a babbling brook flowing
out into the endless ocean.
I write to heal, to hear, to be understood.
Maybe I write to be loved.

I write to explore, to travel, to wander and wonder
into the places that others can't reach,
that others fear to go.
I write to jump naked into the abysss, knowing that words
will catch me.

You say my life has been interesting,
Yes, I say, but not happy.
I follow the interest and it leads me to places a wiser person would not go.
But it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Better to say it, do it, live it, than regret it.
Better to pick daisies while we still can.

And maybe happiness is not something to strive for.
Maybe interesting is enough. 
Maybe life provides the spark, the food, the material.
And writing is my joy.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

I would pick more daisies

At the moment I'm on a writing retreat at Ty  Newydd in Wales. It is the most beautiful day and I have been for a walk by the sea. On the way back, I spotted a dandelion clock. It made me think of my children and how they would squeal and fight over it. I walked on past. And then something made me remember this poem. And I went back to pick it. And I blew the seeds into the air like fairies. And felt better for it.

So, I thought I'd start blogging again and I thought I'd start by sharing this lovely sentiment.

If I had my life to live over,
I'd try to  make more mistakes next time.
I would relax.
I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been on this trip.
I know of very few things I would take seriously.
I would be crazier.
I would be less hygienic.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers and watch more sunsets.
I would burn more gasoline.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would have more actual troubles and less imaginary ones.
You see, I am one of those people who lives prophylactically and sensibly and sanely
hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I've had my moments and if I had it to do over,
I'd have more of them.
In fact, I'd try to have nothing else.
Just moments, one after the other,
instead of living so many years ahead each day.
I have been one of those people who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat and a parachute.
If I had to do it over again, I would go to places
and do things and travel lighter than I have.
If I had my life to live over,
I would start bare-footed earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would play hookey more.
I wouldn't make such good grades except by accident.
I would ride on merry-go-rounds.
I'd pick more daisies.

Nadine Stair, 85, Louiseville, Kentucky