A Three Month Kick in the Pants

Many of us writers often complain about having to fit our writing around other mundane things, such as work, kids and spouses. Many often dream about how we could write forever if only we had the time to do it.

Well, sometimes you shouldn’t wish for something, just incase you get it.

Me? Well, I’ve just recently been informed that I’m about to be made redundant. So, I suspect I’m going to be just falling around with time on my hands in the next few months.

It didn’t come as a surprise and, being a complete control freak, I do happen to have something else lined up. However, that isn’t until September and I suspect my services are about to be unrequired by the end of June.

So, my maths suggest that I have around three months; July, August and September to make something happen other than keeping my wife happy (washing on the line, kitchen floor mopped, stairs vacuumed etc.). As it happens, that’s just the right amount of time that a certain Stephen King suggest it should take to write the first draft of a novel!

I’m looking at this as an opportunity to turn a frown upside-down and get my novel up to first draft standard.

However, I still do have some more-than-mundane plates that I need to keep spinning;

  •  A spring-clean of the amuteforamuse blog
  •  Keeping the amuteforamuse blog updated
  •  Working on getting my website up and running
  •  Completing my Creative Writing MA
  •  Researching / studying for my new venture (more about that nearer the time)

The good news is that I’m already 85000 words into my first draft, the bad news is that I’ve not touched it in a long time. I’m feeling a mixture of panic, fear and excitement all at once, I know it will be the end of September in no time (and the time is going to pass anyway, isn’t it?) but I’m hoping to use this experience as a stepping-stone to something positive.

Plans for World Domination

My wife always tells me things happen for reason, I’ve always found it good advice that has proved its value in the past on a number of occasions.  It’s the thing that got me through losing my parents to cancer within a couple of months of each other, and it’s also the reason that I still felt my cup was half-full on the morning I was told my job was moving to the other end of the country. I’ve been given the option of moving or taking a redundancy settlement but balancing the loyalty I’ve given to this company for over twenty-five years against the thought of uprooting my family and driving a three-hundred mile divide between me and my children isnt a difficult decision.

I’ve been given the proverbial ‘kick-in-the-pants’ that has forced me to grab the future with both hands and finally do something that makes me happy.  I’ve always wanted to be a university lecturer in either IT or Creative Writing but I know I’m still a few years away from that yet (PHD and teaching experience must come first).

The good news is that my previous studies that I undertook to further my current career has set me in good stead for a teaching career; an MSc in Computers, as well as an MA in Creative Writing (hopefully).  Unfortunately, teaching in the UK has been given a rough ride in recent years and we do have a number of gaps in the industry which I hope I can do my little bit to fill.

I’ve been offline for a few weeks whilst I get a few things in order, mainly what my five year plan is going to be, whilst paying most attention to the next year or so. My daughter gave me a journal for my birthday last year.  As an accomplished deputy headmistress she always has a knack for getting me gifts that she know I’ll put to good use (it’s something I like to think that I’ve passed on to her!). So, I’ve been spending my time filling in bits of this journal recently and I’m beginning to see the outlines of a plan beginning to form;

July 2016 – Redundancy
September 2016 – Teacher Training / Post Graduate Certificate in Education
September 2017 – Graduate with Qualified Teacher Status
October 2017 – (hopefully) land a teaching role
January 2018 – Begin PHD
2021 – Teaching & Lecturing.

Writing these details down doesn’t fill me with the dread that someone facing redundancy might feel, instead it gives me a confidence and it feels like a breath of fresh air.

Oh, and the words that were scribbled on the cover of the journal that my daughter gave me?

“Plans for World Domination….”

And so it begins..

There’s a lot starting to happen this week that I’m please about.

Firstly, I’m really excited to be on the edge of beginning to study my MA in Creative Writing with Teesside University. I’ve just made my ‘hello world’ post on the forums and am really keen to start to get to know my fellow students and also my tutor. I’ve already done some reading ahead of schedule and have picked up some really good information about routine and commitment.

Secondly, this week marks the first of four weeks with Futurelearn’s course on William Wordsworth. I can’t pretend that I spend much time in the world of poetry, but this fine chap lived and wrote very close to where I live and, when I did my English Literature degree, I felt his poems jumped from the page. It’s only fair that I take a few hours out of my schedule to pay this wonderful poet the respect that his writing deserves. As with the Writing Ficion I’ll be sending out progression updates so people can make their own choices about whether they would feel the course worthwhile.

Finally, I’ve managed to pull a bunch of pictures off my camera from some of the visits to various cities on my holidays. Some of them really got my creative juices flowing and I felt flash fiction fall from the sky!

Studying for an MA in Creative Writing

So, the good news about my studies is that I’ve been accepted onto an MA for Creative Writing; something that I’m really excited about. I’ll be starting the course very soon and will be studying with Teesside University. I had a number of chats with the tutor, Dr Sophie Nicholls, and it all just felt very ‘right’.

The MA details can be found here; Creative Writing MA Distance Learning

I’ve decided to take it over two years; the first year covering all of the pre-requisite knowledge and the second year will be a final project that I’m looking forward to. I’ve even been out and got fresh notebooks and pens ready for the start.

The only person who was a bit worried about it all was my son who, just going into his own final year of University, caught me reading the information about fresher’s week and panicked at the thought of me attending. I set his mind at ease quickly enough, but the thought of a paint party did pique my interest.

Back from a break

Good to be back after my Summer break.

Actually, I hadn’t planned it, but I did discover that buying tins of paint, brushes and ladders doesn’t mean that the house will still paint itself! Also, it seems that once you peel some of the wallpaper off the hall wall, it means you have to somehow re-paper the whole hall, stairs and landing. So, you can imagine the kinds of things that I’ve been upto for most of August.

Anyhow, that’s all out of the way now, all my leave is used up, and I’m due back in work on Monday (never thought I’d be looking forward to it).

I’ve got a bunch of stuff that I’ve been meaning to write up but just hadn’t had the energy, so they’ll be appearing over the next week or so.

Starting with some good news about my studies…

Back from holiday with a bump.

Back from holiday – had a great time and really enjoyed the rest and not having to do much of anything.

This morning, I was only about half an hour into my normal working day when I felt like I needed another holiday.  I really need to finish my novel and hope it’s a best-seller 🙂  Either that, or I could win the Euromillions lottery.

Ironically, looking forward to the break so I could get some more writing done, the biggest complaint I had was that I didn’t do as much writing as I thought I would; the lure of the sun and cider made me feel like George R R Martin in front of an NFL game. I’d even bought a great new notebook in Paperchase in the airport.

Still, I did pickup a great book to read in the ship’s library (which by the way, P&O Cruises have a very good stock of books) – Half a King by Joe Abercrombie. It was a hardback that had never been read (not a slight on the book, I think it had only just been purchased) and I felt almost guilty for reading it around suntan lotion and glasses of water.

Okay, so I must admit in my panic at seeing so many books in one place on a ship, I fell into alphabetic mode and picked up the first fantasy book I hadn’t read. Even though I’ve never read a Joe Abercrombie book, I’ve always felt close to him as an author as he’s around my age and grew up in Lancaster which is just twenty minutes drive from where I live. Part of me is always happy in the idea that if I told an author where I lived, they’d say, “Oh yes, I know where that is.”

Moving back to the novel though. What a book! I don’t usually spend too much time reading the blurb on the covers, but when I did I wholeheartedly agreed with the fact that it was a can’t-put-down book. I devoured the adventures of the unfortunate Prince Yarvi and followed him through his bitter struggle for redemption. I do have to admit that there were some rather large comparisons with a certain other young prince in Game of Thrones, but it didn’t really detract from the story. If you haven’t read this book, I would definitely recommend it.

In fact the ONLY negative I had was that I read it that quickly, I didn’t have time to choose another book and finish it before the ship docked for home. Joe can be happy that I returned it back to the library in almost pristine condition for the next lucky reader to pick up.

NB: Note to self (again), tablets are no good for reading books in the sun..

Anyway, got some great images on the camera that gave me some good ideas for a few flash fiction posts so they should be available throughout this week.

Where the magic happens

I’ve been on a journey to find out just how typical my own writing space actually is. I thought it might be worthwhile to show others what my desk looks like, you know – where the magic happens; warts and all.

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Come with me on a small tour around the space that could hold the answers to many of my dreams. In no particular order;

  • Max the Border Terrier – I just woke him up moving from my chair and he was in the middle of a particularly good stretch. He’s good company at night and keeps my feet warm in the winter.
  • Laptop is for work and is usually tucked away in the drawers to the side. If I’m working, then I’m not writing and vice versa.
  • The 32″ TV doubles as my main monitor when I’m writing at night, whilst the 20″ monitor is my main source of research as I use it to surf the Internet.
  • The lamp adds an element of mood lighting at night when I’m writing. I chose it because it looked very “Steampunk” to me.
  • Forgive the saucer and can / glass. I’d just finished my dinner and hadn’t gotten around to clearing the pots.
  • The book on the desk is an old university creative writing book that I’m working through at the moment. The box of pins / clips on top are there to allow me to mark the various pages that inspire me.
  • Finally, there is just half of a mini/personal Christmas tree in the top left of the picture. I’ve wrapped some tiny lights around it and I’ve kept it there so I can turn it on and experience my own little bit of Christmas whenever I choose.

***Bonus point if anyone spotted the remote control to the TV that is literally twelve inches away from the actual screen.  I know, I’m lazy!***

Back to the actual searching now though. I’ve found lots of resources that show where some of the more famous authors penned their works. One particular link is a section on The Guardian website called Writers’ room over here.

This gem of a section has some wonderful rooms dating back to around 2007 (the reports, not the desks). My own personal favourites are:

Anthony Browne – I just love the lighting in this room. I assume it’s intended as Anthony is an illustrator but it just feels so light and airy. Also, he’s not the first person to suggest working standing up is good for the back.

Joan Bakewell – I can picture myself there on a cold Winter’s night with that log fire burning away. Joan’s comments about the poster on her wall and how she wants “some of her stillness to transmit itself to me, help me settle down and find my focus,” I find extremely comforting.

Francesca Simon – I like the angles and the way the eye is drawn to that excellent window. Francesca also has trouble with music and lyrics when she’s writing, very similar to myself.  Ever been writing a short story whist listening to Bily Joel and find that one of your final lines is, “well, she’s always a woman to me!”

Virginia Woolf – what a view! Imagine that at dusk with a slight drizzle in the air and the water running down those windows. When you read the text that accompanies this picture, you get a truly remarkable insight into how much of an idyllic lifestyle it must have been. There’s a tinge of sadness with this image as it isn’t difficult to picture Leonard Woolf finding ‘that’ letter to him on this desk and to see him rush out from the room.

Helen Simpson – organised. My room is only ever this organised after my wife has cleaned it up and I’ve not been allowed back in it yet. I love the idea that Helen utilise trestle tables (I only ever see them when wall-papering or at car-boot sales).  I’m also fascinated about how much goes into the planning for a 2000 word short story (Note to myself: must try harder!). I also cracked a wry smile when Helen talks about the paint getting yellower towards the ceiling – it reminds of that old horror story – The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman

Nicola Barker – dog.

Joshua Ferris – cat.

Al Kennedy – how do I get my chair to recline like that? I like the idea that Al keeps his travelling hat and bag on display to remind himself how he can just get up and go whenever he pleases, even though he knows he can’t. Similarly in my own writing space, I keep a large rucksack and some pamphlets on local walks that I’m always looking to get around to.

Hilary Mantel – not sure how I’d feel about living in an old Asylum. However, that’s until I read about this little space, “If I feel travel would broaden the mind, I take my laptop up a spiral staircase, to a little room under the asylum clock.” Really? a secret room under an old clock.

How do these compare against your own ideal writing space, real or otherwise?

School celebrates books by decorating lockers

Back in July 2014, I posted a story about how some of London’s benches were being designed to look like open books.

Well, fast-forward a year and here is a great post from the tor.com website about how students from a junior high school have turned 189 unused lockers into the spines of books. I think this is a great idea to refurbish something that wasn’t being used and to bring new life into them (and more publicity for books can’t be a bad thing!)

Obviously, I’d have to find a way to get three lockers together so I could have The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.

Uni application away!!

Well, I’ve finally done it!

The forms are filled in, the portfolio is updated, the references are confirmed and it’s all in the post. There’s little more that I can do now, it’s just a matter of sitting and waiting.

I thought my enthusiasm would drop once the process of applying was complete, but I’m in another state of excitement which I hope will last between now and September.

I’ve got a few books to work through, I’ve got a couple of weeks booked off, and a cruise around Italy to savour it all.

There are a good number of posts that I need to complete to get on the blog as I’ve been holding off them whilst I worked on the applications.

Good times ahead!