Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Creative Slumps. How do you get out of them?

So, here I am again, having not blogged or written anything, for over a month. Rubbish.

My big plan to write a thousand words a day has petered off into the sunset of dreams and is never going to happen...

I find it really hard to write anything with other people in the house and as my eldest has been off FOREVER (since finishing her GCSE's sometime in June). Then my youngest joined her, and then my husband had three weeks off as well.

This was obviously lovely and we did lots of family things, including a trip to Scotland, the Lake District and Wales.  We also taught the kids some card games whilst on holiday, including Twenty-Five (which if you have any kind of Irish ancestry you will be aware of) and Texas Hold'em. Yup, that is excellent parenting right there; teach your kids poker AND how to bet on poker. Awesome. 

We also played Hive, which is a weird game for two players a bit like chess, without the need for a board and with bug counters. It's quite quick, so the winner stays on. I would definitely recommend it as a travel game.

Hive - Beware it brings out your competitive nature

My children aren't even that demanding, they are 12 (going on 18), and 16 and quite capable of feeding and watering themselves during the day. As long as I make an evening meal they are fairly content.

Once again I digress, this isn't about holidays or my kids, it's about me, me, ME!

OK, tantrum over.

So how do you gather some alone time and curl yourself up in it, because, boy oh boy, in the summer holidays it is a massive challenge?

For me alone time comes in the form of an early night and a read of my book. I try to get at least half an hour most nights. That helps. And I lied a bit about not writing, I keep a diary, not every day but when I can, so I do try to do that, so I suppose I have written something. Not my creative masterpiece admittedly, but something.

And then there is that. My Creative Masterpiece. I wrote my final EMA for my first year of my OU Masters course and thought it was OK as an opening to a novel, I'd done my research, backed myself up in my commentary and was happy. Then I get the result, and I pass, which is good but didn't do as well as I hoped. The critique is less than you get for all the shorter TMA's and less constructive, which seems a bit odd. Leaving me feeling deflated, and knocks my confidence.

My plan was to continue with this story into the second year of my course, but now I don't know. It's quite personal and so the critique felt personal. Maybe I should do something completely different.

I was hoping over the summer I would come up with a genius idea, in all my alone time. Or be inspired by beautiful/Scotland/Wales/Lake District...but nothing has come to mind. I appear to be in a creative slump.

Beautiful Glencoe, sadly not helping me get out of my slump
I am heading towards the second year of my master's mid slump and I quite concerned. I wrote a nice little poem about a daisy the other day, but that's not going to cut it...

So my question to all of you out there in the world is -  How do you climb out of a slump? Is it just nose to the grindstone, and write anything and hope inspiration will follow, or do you go somewhere, listen to something, watch something, talk to someone, because I have to do something.

Any advice gladly accepted.

And to finish, a nice little poem about a daisy.

Happy clockface,
Wiggling in the sun's embrace.

Mirror image, bright
Yellow shine.

Perfect circle, perfect smile,
White and palest pink dials.

Uniform symetry, clever nature

Joy, oh joy. 

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Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Ten Years of Blogging

Well bloody hell, who'd have thunk it. I've been at this blogging malarky for TEN years.

A lot has changed since I started this. I am out of date, I don't vlog or do streaks on Snapchat (although I think that is becoming less lit* ...maybe). People are swiping right or left to find other people, sometimes just for some casual sex, sometimes (I hope) to find love.

Nobody calls anyone on the telephone anymore, they text to make plans, which I quite like. It's so much more efficient, although on the downside if people change their minds about going out, another text is sent. I think that's sad. There is no proper explanation or apology. I am not assigning blame, I've done it myself. 

The world has changed. A TV stars and businessman is president of the USA and Brexit is a thing. It wasn't even a word ten years ago never mind the dreadful mess it is now.  On the upside, we seem to finally be realising there is a multitude of environmental issues that need sorting out. Hopefully, it is not too little too late.

Of course, now we publish our lives in pictures on Instagram. Most of us do it whilst trying to make our lives look that little bit more lovely than in reality it is. We don't post dirty bed sheets or washing up but instead, tableaus of pretty things we own or have grown or made. 

When I started writing my blog my daughters were two and six, now they are twelve and sixteen. They have gone from tiny tots to perfectly formed intelligent young women. Tonight my sixteen-year-old is attending her Prom....how did that happen?
2009 Heather and Lola with the lovely Paul

2019 at their Grandparents 50th wedding anniversary in Ireland

I had a job I enjoyed and was proud of doing when I wrote my first blog post. By the time I left that job, a lot had changed and I was neither proud of doing it and I hadn't enjoyed it for years. Top level management changed and in the process, it became a very different place to work. Since leaving in 2016 I created a small business selling the bits and bobs I make, but I found that took the joy out of crafting. In 2017 I started a creative writing Masters Degree with the Open University. I have never been happier. It is wonderful to learn more about something I love to do so that I can do it better. I am currently waiting for my results for my first year and am all signed up for my second. I am quietly confident I have done OK, keep everything crossed for me.

I remain happily married and realise what a blessing that it as I watch other marriages crumble along the wayside. I also appreciate how much my husband has supported me over the last ten years, from my diagnosis of CML (Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia) to the illnesses and deaths of both my parents. I never really understood when people said 'he's my rock' but I get it now. Paul has been my lighthouse in every storm, he is one amazing man and I am lucky to be his wife.

I started this blog because my friend @Tara_Cain who blogs at Sticky Fingers insisted and included me in a Meme so kinda made me. Here is the link to the Meme from ten years ago. I am going to answer the same Meme today and see if my answers have changed. Here we go:

1. Who is the hottest movie star? I'm still a fan of Stewart Grainger, and James McAvoy is still high up on my list but thanks to all the Marvel films lovely Micheal Fassbender is now in my sights along with the gorgeous Hugh Jackman (or as my husband calls him - Huge Action).
2. Apart from your house and your car, what's the most expensive item you've ever bought? My Pod (like a summer house but circular and cooler).
3. What's your most treasured memory? Giving birth to Lola...because it was such a long journey to get her - This remains the same.
4. What was the best gift you ever received as a child? I clearly didn't read the question last time - as a child, the best present I had was my Katy CopyCat doll, my Mum and Dad told me I couldn't have one for Christmas as it was too expensive. My Gran ignored them and got one for me anyway.
5. What's the biggest mistake you've made? Last time I said an ex-boyfriend but had I not met him I wouldn't have met Paul so not a mistake. Which makes me think life is sometimes about doing stupid things and just learning from them.
6. 4 words to describe yourself. Smiley, happy, creative, contented.
7. What was your highlight or lowlight of 2018? Doing my Masters Degree and seeing my daughters reach twelve and sixteen
8. Favourite film? Practical Magic - still love this film.
9. Tell me one thing I don't know about you. I don't know how many tattoos I have had, I have lost count.
10. If you were a comic book/strip or cartoon character, who would you be? Tank Girl because she is kick ass.

So that's ten years, I wonder what the next ten will bring.

*Kid speech for fun/excellent/good/cool

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Sunday, 30 June 2019

Camping in the 1970's - Part 1 (or 10 examples of why it's a miracle I'm still here)

My youngest child is going on a Bushcraft trip next weekend. As I looked at the massive Yurt and spangly campsite on the Bushcraft website I can't help but think how different her experience will be to my camping experiences.

My Mum was *Queen of the Guides. So, before I was old enough to join the Brownies, or even walk, I was camping.

Mum is 7th in at the back from the left and I am 4th in the second row from the right, you can't see my face, just lots of hair.
Now there were two types of 1970s tent time. Type A; was with the guides. Type B; was family holidays.

You’d think Mum wouldn’t want to go camping on a holiday, but no, not only did we camp with the guides come sun, rain and snow, but also on our summer holidays.... obvs.

First, in the form of a list, I shall cover Type A camping (Type B will follow shortly).

  1. Pegs were made of wood, that had mashed up tops from being hit by wooden mallets. Today, you have metal pegs and rubber headed mallets.
  2. There were a thousand guide ropes attached to the wooden pegs (not Guide as in 'the Guides' but guide as in, I guided the tent into standing up with these million ropes). These ropes were a health and safety nightmare and you could guarantee that during your camping trip, you would trip on one of these ropes and skin your shin on a wooden peg. Standard.
  3. All tents were made of canvas (heavy cotton). They were not, I repeat not, waterproof. You would be told not to touch the inside of a rained-on tent. Why? Because, and we all did it, the minute you touched it the water dripped through. Fun.
  4. There was no bottom to the tent, so you had a triangle of moist mildew smelling canvas above you and grass (and stones) beneath. On the grass, you put a ground sheet. A ground sheet was basically a tarpaulin, with no protection from the bumps and lumps. You would wake up with new bruises most days.
  5.  There were no squidgy soft yoga rolls, you had a ground sheet and a sleeping bag. If you were lucky you brought a pillow with you. (My Mum said you had to roll up clothes to make a pillow. Bringing a pillow wasn’t ‘proper’ camping….I know, right!)
  6. There were no pop-up tents. Putting up a tent could take anywhere up to 3 hours if you had no idea what you were doing, and sometimes even if you did.
  7.  There were a lot of open fires made for cooking, particularly with the Guides. You would cook all your food on the open fire. Everything and everybody smelt of smoke. A lot of people got 1st – 3rd-degree burns. When that happened, one of the Guiders would slap some Savlon on and send you back to carry on cooking. Parents weren't called, the 'incident' wasn't written up, everything ended with Savlon.
    Apologies for the poor quality of this photo but this clearly demonstrates cooking on an open fire with no gloves or health and safety equipment. I am at a safe distance, left to the standing person, kneeling.
  8.  Toilets. Well, we dug a hole. Seriously. People think I’m joking when I tell them this. The only luxury was a seat with a hole in it. When that hole below got full, you fill it in and dug another one. This was probably my least favourite Guide/Brownie/small child duty. There was no hand washing facilities apart from the nearby stream.
  9.  Now, of course, we weren’t heathens we were well bought up young ladies, so we were taught how to make a table out of sticks and string. This table had a place for a bowl so we could wash up our plates etc, it also had a place for our plates to drip dry.
  10. There was no risk of a parent suing the Guiders and limited safety instruction. Similarly, there was no alcohol antiseptic hand gel and everyone had at least one pen knife. I think I had my first pen knife at five. Kids ran free and were encouraged to learn by themselves and be independent. As a result we jumped in streams, built rope bridges, climbed trees, went on massive treks, got blisters and callouses, sang songs around open fires, cooked sausages on sticks on the same fire, dropped sausages into fire, then pulled them out again and ate them. I know it’s a miracle I’m still here. 
        * A Queen's guide is a guide who has got all their badges. My Mum not only had all her badges, but was  a Guider, commissioner for the County and something of a BigWig in the guide community. I was a bit of a guide disappointment. 
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