Tuesday, 28 August 2018

People (and sculpture) Watching

As writers we must look for inspiration all around. It's always important to read lots and lots, but taking influence from the real world, what we see and hear in our daily lives and environments is even more so. Overheard conversations can spark ideas, and the influence for your next main character could be just around the corner - literally!
Here I'm going to write about some of the curious people and things I have seen this summer, and the environments which I found them in, since I like to keep a record; the things I write are a mismatch of small aspects from everyday life, imagery and experiences found in dreams, and things I like in books and films - and I often like to write about young people, since it encompasses my own experiences, thoughts and feelings over the almost two decades I've been alive.

Football Match

I'm not usually a football fan, but since my younger brother is really passionate about it I decided to go see his match one sunny day in July. It's kind of interesting to see how kids interact with each other, especially in a competitive sport, which usually doesn't bring out the best in people... My brother's a good team player and I was pleased to see that everyone on both teams were pleasant too.

The surrounding area was quite unusual. Being a heatwave, the green fields were blazing hot and bleached by the sun, crunching underfoot. Behind me, where I sat watching, reading, writing and smiling, was the animal shelter where I volunteered since the beginning of the year, and an abandoned convent which was once the learning place of, shall I say "troubled kids" (I want to be nice about it because it's just one of those sad things, but working next door to that building I'd seen some kind of scary and unusual things!). The large metal crosses high up on the roofs would probably have burnt you if you were to touch them. Ants crawled over my arms and legs, over the picnic blanket and on top of my hat, trying to get near the apple which I did not want to share with six-legged friends.

The young footballers were red-faced and determined, sometimes getting accidentally tangled up with each other's legs on the pitch, being over-eager and clumsy. Babies murmured peacefully and spectators laughed, but what caught my attention was the repetitive, chime-like giggling of a group of siblings in the near distance.

Three girls and a small boy were playing with a flattened magpie, tossing it up into the air and laughing. Obviously it was dead - dead as a dodo, *coughs* - and they just didn't care or seem to mind. They threw it to one another and held it by its stiff, wide-spread wings as easily as a cardboard cut-out. The children were so innocent; death and bacteria did not bother them or send them scurrying away, but the latter notion scared me for sure. I wondered if I should get up and tell them to leave it alone, for it might've contained nasty germs and nobody else seemed to know of their game, but a parent beat me to it.
"Bye, dead bird," the children said softly as they went to go play hide and seek elsewhere.


My parents have told me that I seem to attract strange interactions with other people. Maybe it's true. I don't like speaking with people I don't know, especially if something seems off about them, but as a timid-looking girl I guess it can be hard to avoid them in public spaces... Liverpool is a busy place - not as bad as London, but there are certainly lots of people, and it takes all sorts to make the world.

I decided to visit an art gallery which I've been to a few times before, since it contains a rather striking room filled with Grecian and Romanesque marble figures, bathed in whites and cream and black, which I figured would be interesting to photograph on my new/old camera.
Well, my favourite statue in the entire room could be spotted at once. I do admire little Puck, the mischievous sprite from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". His grumpy face and devilish wings contrast greatly with his chubby-cheeked cherubic-ness, and despite the fact that he could not move or speak or do a single interesting thing, he was probably the best thing I encountered that day. I would have sketched him if I had time, but there was an 18th Century fashion exhibit in the next room!

One thing that soured the trip a little was the walk to and from the gallery. It was much longer than I remembered, especially since I'm battling some pretty bad fatigue at the moment, and with road works I had to walk a slightly different path. A man in an orange luminous vest was laid out across the narrow walkway, and so I had to step over him as there was nowhere else to go. Fair enough, I suppose he was tired too.
But walking that way, I caught the attention of a man on the other side of the road, who trudged through the traffic to approach me. He was drunk, and I was a little scared, though now I think back on it I find it a bit funny. When he spoke I couldn't understand him well, but I caught this:
"What colour are you?" I had no idea what he meant, since I'm obviously as white as a sheet and splotched red from embarrassment and exercise. "You can be any colour in the rainbow! Or all of them."
I ignored him since the only colour I could think of was 'leave-me-alone lavender,' but he continued to follow and pester me.
"Use your imagination. I'm sure you have one, don't you!" I ignored him more... then finally lost him at the crossing where he called me a "vampire" and then latched onto somebody else.

Well, that's people for you. When will any of this work its way into my writing? Probably not any time soon, but it was fun to write about my experiences!


Friday, 3 August 2018

Creative Writing Pick-Me-Ups

All artists go through a period of creative block every once in a while, whether it is paintings they produce, or prose. What can be more frustrating than having a goal or deadline to meet, only to find yourself slipping into a routine of getting nothing done? Inspiration is a fickle thing, and so you have to grab it when it comes and then wrangle with it to stay, like some kind of wild, frenzied animal that wants feeding at the strangest of hours and then takes off the minute the front door is left ajar.
Left stunned from the inspiration beast’s great escape, what you need is a restorative, or a writing pick-me-up! Here are some of the things that help me when I’ve been left feeling beaten down after a battle with the beast. Perhaps you can also give them a go when creativity has gone out the window.

New Books - Ellie Morris

Take a break
This may seem like it defeats the purpose of trying to get back into a creative writing flow, but sometimes you just need to let go for a while. There’s no use in trying to force things, as it will only frustrate you further. Don’t feel bad about it, but pick up some of your other hobbies instead. It should be something relatively easy and enjoyable. I recently got back into photography and drawing, for example.

Find something new
Shuffle through some different playlists on Spotify and find a new song that you like, go through random articles on Wikipedia until you discover something worth perusal, start a new hobby which has been on your mind for a while now, take a trip out of town and go sightseeing, buy a new book, watch a film in a different genre… You might just find something that can join the missing links between plot point A and character B, or an idea for a new story. It’s unlikely that you can gather enough information for new ideas or motivation when you’re sitting still, watching the cursor blink on the screen, and doing the same old things every time.

Read lots
Lots and lots and lots, whenever or wherever you can. Unwind with old favourites which you have found interesting and inspiring before and explore new genres. If you’re finding fantasy or historical fiction old hat, dig up a classic novel to check out at the library or buy something from a relatively new author whose work you haven’t seen yet. Take a chance, for a balance of new and old can get you on an even keel again. Just keep reading, keep learning, keep persevering.

Read about writing, too
I’m sure you’ll always find new hints and tips! Search for creative writing blogs to follow and drop by the bookstore to look through novels written on the subject. Everybody has at least some room for improvement, and it’s important to recognise that and take steps to see how other people keep up their motivation and reach success. As a side note, I’m re-reading Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, and even in this guide he lists lots of further references, meaning that I’ll be drowning in new improvement books to buy (my bank account doesn’t like it, but yay, I guess).
In the case of blogs, other people’s passion for writing can get you excited and ready to write again, too. Bouncing ideas back and forth with a writer friend will make the whole novel-writing journey easier!

Make mood boards
Gather pretty pictures and slam them down on a page. Write around those pictures. Just scribble, scrawl, doodle, draw, and fling paint around like you’re some kind of modern artist in an awful funk. If mum asks about the acid green paint on the ceiling, just say that it’s all for a good cause. But what does the green paint mean? Something about the colour green is calling you, and it must mean something. Write it down. Write anything down. And get messy with the glue. Afterwards, take a step back and try to figure out the bigger picture. How do those colours and things relate to your current piece? How are any of them connected to the current scene? Do they string together at all? Is it an environment, a person or an emotion? Can it lead to new things? Or is your room just in good need of a tidy right now?

Set a goal
Try for 500 words, even if you know they will turn out to be nonsense. Just get something down on the blank page. Don’t mull it over too much, but let it be a stream of consciousness uninterrupted by doubts or extravagant goals. Make a cup of tea or coffee before starting, get comfy, and then reward yourself with a small sweet treat afterwards. Next time, make the goal slightly bigger, until you’re back into your usual routine.

Change of scene
Take your laptop to a local café and camp out for the day. Make sure to take headphones and plenty of money for caffeinated drinks, and find a quiet corner to spread out notebooks, documents, and battle plans. If you don’t fancy spending any money, bring a notebook along to a park or garden and sit with nature, taking notes on what you see. Think about your story without actually having it there to intimidate you; this can offer a new perspective, as more often than not the finer, minute details are forgotten and the story is back to its original outlines, which is what drew you in to write the story in the first place. Just sitting somewhere other than at your desk (or wherever else you spend day after day for the task) can make things more interesting.

I hope somebody will find at least one point in this list helpful. Please let me know in the comments if you have any more ideas!


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