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Category: Writing
Tags: Writers Abroad Writing writing inspiration

Writing is a solitary activity as we all know. It’s not something you can do with someone else. Even writing collaborators do their writing separately and then bring it together. I can’t imagine many circumstances where they could sit down and write together.

This gives people the impression that writers must be loners, grafting away in an attic or even the coal shed, with little human contact. Nothing could be further from the truth. Writing fiction is about people. Inspiration comes from everyday interaction with them, even on the most banal level, like buying bread.

We also write for people. I don’t believe there are many writers who write purely for their own satisfaction. We all want an audience, even if it’s only a handful of people, and we await their reaction with trepidation.

Joining Writers Abroad a couple of years ago coincided with starting to write fiction again after a gap of decades. Without the constant encouragement, criticism and inspiration I get here, I doubt if I would have continued.

For me, getting involved in other activities is also a source of inspiration. Starting work a few months ago at our local médiathèque, or library, is feeding into my writing. It has done wonders for my French. It has also introduced me to new friends and fresh literary experiences. In theory, I work one morning per week. In practice, it’s more since so many activities – in French and English – are associated with the library.

The idea of joining a reading group has never particularly appealed to me. But I find exchanging books and ideas about them with a like-minded person more interesting. Mandy, whom I met through the library, has introduced me to new authors who have given me writing ideas. For example, Andrew Taylor’s The American Boy is set in England in 1819. He writes in first person POV and sustains the period voice very well. This inspired me to write a period piece, ‘Bert Flow’s Parrot’, which I posted up here.  

We also hold occasional author readings, both in English and French. Yesterday, local English novelist Jacqueline Yallop talked to us about her writing and read excerpts from her work, including Obedience, set in the area.  (Incidentally, she writes in their woodshed, except when it’s too cold). I was relieved to hear that she writes without a detailed plan. This involves a lot of subsequent re-drafting but that method works for her. Glad I’m not the only one who has a sketchy road map.   

Some of the other activities I’m involved in, such as helping to restore a ruined chapel and singing in a choir also provide plenty of material for my work. I might not use it all immediately but it gets filed away in my brain and dusted off as and when.

So, far from constraining my writing time, I find these activities short-circuit it by giving me ideas and material. I sometimes complain about being too busy. But I suspect that my output would be no greater if I just sat in front of the computer all day waiting for the muse. It might even be less.

Does engaging in other activities stimulate your writing?



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Monday, October 05, 2015
Site news 5 October 2015
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Rules, Restrictions and Darn Right Spontaneous!
Posted by Crilly

George Bernard Shaw famously declared -

‘The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.’

We have rules to create boundaries by which we can live safely. A simple example is road rules. In Australia we drive on the left and as a  rule  most people adhere to that. (Imagine the carnage if we didn’t!)

It is compulsory to wear a helmet when riding a push-bike, swimming pools must be fenced and there has to be soft-fall on the ground in children’s playgrounds. These are just some of our many rules here in Australia.

If you are like me, you check your emails daily. Perhaps also, you find there are invariably some concerned with writing.

The types that say – ‘Avoid using this or it is better to do that.’

This got me thinking about how the myriad writing rules or suggestions affect spontaneity.

I wondered if for example, Charles Dickens worried about run-on sentences when he appeared to be more concerned with poverty and the lack of social welfare in Britain at the time.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair..." from  A Tale of Two Cities

Equally, was Jane Austen anxious about adverbs and adjectives when writing about the delicate and sometimes risky economic situations the women of that era found themselves in? It seems she also got away with double negatives as shown below.

"She owned that, considering everything, she was not absolutely without inclination for the party." from  Emma 

When hunched over a small table and squinting by candlelight, were these great writers constrained by the so-called writing rules? It seems not.

On researching this, I found articles saying ‘Never open a story with the weather.’ Use patois sparingly. Avoid exclamation points and the old chestnut, ‘Show Don’t Tell’ can be found everywhere!

V.S. Naipaul recommends never write long sentences, a maximum of 10-12 words (sorry, Mr Naipaul, I failed you in this blog!)

Use the active voice unless specifically requiring the passive and don’t get me started on irregular past participles and those awful dangling modifiers! There are times when I’m convinced I slept through some English lessons at school or like taxation laws, have new rules have been introduced merely to confuse?

After writing that first draft do you go back to the beginning and alter this or delete that aware that unless you do, it may cost you the writing competition?  What if the judge is known to have a predilection about this or that, do you adjust your writing to better your chances?  

 Are there rules that really annoy and frustrate you and inhibit free-flowing, spontaneous writing?

Or in conclusion, do you ignore the rules and scribble darn right spontaneously?

Then again, maybe you think like G.K Chesterton did when he declared...

‘There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.


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