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We’ve been here before

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Oh, learning stuff is hard.

TMA01 just back from fiction tutor and practically the same mark as last year’s TMA01 from the poetry tutor, both of which effectively said ‘Not bad, try harder.’ And a lot of really clear explanation of why my writing was a bit meh.

So, that’s ok, that gives me something to work with. It’s flattening though, to know you did your best at that point in time and actually, you aren’t a genius, you are like all the other folks who just started learning a craft - you need to keep doing it a while longer yet before you are an expert.

But I’m doing all the things! I’m doing all the writing and the working and the reading. It’s not fair! I want to be good RIGHT NOW.

Back to this time last year: have patience and trust the process.

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New year new me

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Edited by Jackie Morris, Friday, 27 Nov 2020, 18:20

Not really. Same me. New genre though. Fiction, as it’s all I’ve written during lockdown and because I understand it better than poetry. I’m never sure if my poems are any good, I can tell better if my fiction is.

I have a real life blog now 

https://wordpress.com/earn/thewavingnotdrowningblog.wordpress.com

It’s a tiny thing, and none of my best writing is on it, as I sent that out to be judged and I may need it to supplement my work if I get stuck this year.

Wishing everyone a creative and productive year ahead.

Edited to add: my best work came home, bar a couple of poems. Now they aren’t on the blog because they clearly aren’t quite the ticket. My poor maimed babies.
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My mind has been improved

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Despite myself I can’t read bad fiction anymore. I’ve been trying to lose myself in a crime fiction novel, marketed as Amazon Number 1 bestseller and all I can see are the extra adjectives, the spurious descriptions and how S ... L ... O ... W it is. 

This is probably progress, though it means I am now spending a lot more on fiction, as the good stuff values itself more highly than the pulp fiction. I’ve just bought Anne Tyler Redhead by the Side of the Road, having confirmed through the free sample that it is a joy to read.

Most days I wake with inertia, then by mid morning I remember that to be a writer you have to write. And write. And write. Which leads me to my desk, which is where I wanted to be all along, really. I read through some of my notebook from earlier in the year and was pleased with some of it, which is heartening. Writing complete pieces has slowed, but I managed a rhyming poem last week and am planning on another this week, to wake my rhyming muscles up. There’s a local poetry group that seem to demand a rhyme if you want to get your poem distributed in their newsletter, so I figure it will pass the time to try and get one sent every week. Deafening silence after last weeks entry though, but now I see it as a puzzle to crack and am not disheartened.

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Corona Lockdown

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Edited by Jackie Morris, Tuesday, 31 Mar 2020, 18:39

We are very tranquil here, now the ground rules have been established and now the children are officially on Easter break and I can officially let them lie-in all the time. Not a huge fan of a strict routine for them, it normally ends up in a big debate. I, on the other hand, have a fairly clear routine, although now everyone is here it’s difficult to set aside a time to write. I normally work in the kitchen, which now has people in it ALL THE TIME and it feels decadent to retire to bed mid morning ... also, I don’t think I had appreciated how much time I like to take to write - I clear my mind with a word puzzle or three and Sudoko, then read the activities, then and maybe only then do I settle enough to begin to consider writing a poem. By which time a call for attention has come from the kitchen (have I mentioned they are there ALL THE TIME?)

Even if they don’t call for attention it feels wrong to be absent, mentally if not physically, for so much of the day. So I have been a lot less productive than usual. But these are unusual times, and I would like the children to remember I was here during the great Pandemic of 2020, given they are unlikely to want to read my poetry.

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Reading Week

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Edited by Jackie Morris, Friday, 27 Nov 2020, 18:02

Not an official one, but everyone else in the family is skiing and I am staying in the hotel and reading and writing. It’s such a treat, though my eyes are sore by the time they all get back.

I’ve been reading course material and also lots and lots of new poets, just letting my brain absorb everything. I’m also trying to be disciplined at noting, with dates and publishers, everything I read to save a world of pain later in the course.

I’m up to date on the writing activities. Predictably returning to poetry induced major ‘I can’t do it’ vibes, thus the immersion this week, but a good Module 2 result helped, that and reading poets say again and again they all feel like that. And writing a poem, then another, then another, that helped too.

It’s a fair old slog, this course, not much in the way of rest. I can’t imagine fitting it around young children and work.

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The pram in the hallway

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Edited by Jackie Morris, Tuesday, 11 Feb 2020, 11:33

I have a delightful life. I have two children who no longer fit in prams (they are taller than me) and part of the reason for starting the MA was to fill the hours I have spare in the day (in lieu of, like, paid work, cos like, omg, paid work, sounds scary) because I am lucky enough to be a kept woman (by my long suffering husband).

It’s funny that the ‘pram in the hallway’ came to me, given the hopelessly indulged circumstances I live in. But the family does still come first, particularly given I am not a breadwinner, and it does mean I haven’t even started Module 3 reading yet, because there’s lots of small, unimportant things that have filled the last two days, but if they don’t happen then the well oiled wheels of the family machine start to creak a bit, and my main role in the house is to make sure the wheels remain firmly ‘on’ for everyone. And if I spend too much time rehearsing a play or immersing myself in writing or reading then the wheels don’t stay on. I wouldn’t have the temerity to suggest school or paid work might make way for what I would choose to spend my days doing. It’s not even that the tasks I’ve had take that much time but cumulatively they feel like obstacles to thinking. So I see others posting their thoughts on dramatic monologues in poetry and I don’t have the mental capacity to respond, yet. Although tomorrow is now clear, so I can finally get to it.

I have to stress this is coming from me, not the family, I’m not actually a surrendered wife.  But I suppose that’s really what Virginia Woolf was saying, isn’t it?



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‘Twas the (week) before Christmas

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Edited by Jackie Morris, Friday, 20 Dec 2019, 18:29

Two short stories under my belt. Huge breakthrough. The way forward? Draft it, re-draft it, in a loop until it ceases to be completely wooden and starts to read OK. Wow, it’s hard work. 

I’ve also been reading a few books on how to write a short story, which is a different beast to a novel. So far the most inspirational has been ‘The Art and Craft of the Short Story’ by Nick DeMarinis. I’ve also been reading Dreyer’s English, a style guide, which is funny and also very helpful.

Aha moments: 


- start with an unhappy childhood (tick. yay me!)

- Show don’t tell (heard that one before) - finding ways to show how people are feeling, or if you do say saying it in a way they would.  I am learning and relearning this.

- a short story focuses on details,it doesn’t have room for full blown descriptions. It asks you to look afresh at the details to form a view of the whole. It’s a lot like poetry (double yay).

- it’s scope isn’t broad, it focuses a spotlight, its character driven.

- write a thousand words a day (in, for example, a blog if you have nothing else) as it’s the taking part that leads to improvement. I said it was hard work, yes?

All the above from books. My own personal epiphany is that I am now engaged in the process in the same way I was with the poetry, that I want to write good short stories and that I will keep on until I do.

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I have had an idea!

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Edited by Jackie Morris, Tuesday, 11 Feb 2020, 11:34

A big announcement today - I have had an idea for a short story. I know, I know, I'm doing an MA in Creative Writing, isn't that supposed to be par for the course (whilst on the course - ha! see what I did there?). Well, you would think so. I've been on module 2, Fiction (secondary genre) for a panic filled week now. I can do the activities, but as for ideas for the TMA, not a scooby thus far.. 

The national fiction forum is HUGE and it's hard to get a meaningful comment on your work there (or to make one, to be fair), so although the folks that have commented have been kind it hasn't been enough to fill the vast chasm of need that is my ego. Also, when they are only kind there's no room to learn and refine (I've mentioned this is the first week, right? I know I am trying to run before I can walk but that's a lifelong battle). I think with so many posts it's hard enough to keep up, let alone do more than bat the ball right back as far and hard as you can.

Anyway, driving home today it occurred to me that I do have an idea for a story that interests me and that is manageable to write. This is very exciting, given until now all the characters I've tried to create have seemed either boring or cardboard stereotypes. I've been reading Stephen King short stories and trying to work out a structure from that, I think it may be the way in for me, structure first then character. Which is something I read in the course material yesterday, too.

So, the lesson for today (repeat after me) - trust the process, trust the process. And watch this space.

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Poetry v Fiction

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Edited by Jackie Morris, Tuesday, 11 Feb 2020, 11:34

On a whim (I'm not sure I believe in whims) I decided to do poetry as my first genre. My husband sighed and put his dreams of an Amazon bestseller back in the cupboard of 'the way things could have been' along with the ordered and tidy house and a woman who brought money in instead of just spending it. Very stoical man, my husband.

What a revelation! I love writing poetry so much, it's like an elegant crossword that needs solving. I've also enjoyed reading my fellow poets work, which is often so different in tone and content from mine. I learn something every time.

I was a bit blasé about choosing fiction as my secondary genre, as of course I can write, I read all the time, words ooze from me, what are you on about. Oh. My. God. First of all the national Fiction Forum is WAY noisier than the tutor group. Then there's the difficulty of actually having an idea. Then there's all the work that seems to be involved in getting even a small piece of work together. Also, I think I have been exposed to a lot more good fiction than good poetry, so the weight of my own expectations is greater. Now I have started reading poetry again I find a poem I like and think 'that's clever, I'd like to aspire to this'. I write a bit of fiction and think 'this is so crap, I'll never catch up with all those authors'.

Where am I now? I've reminded myself I am doing this to improve my own writing, not to write a critically acclaimed novel or short story, that I can take baby steps and that even if no-one ever comments on my fiction work that will be OK as its writing it that's the critical thing. This feels very grown up and correct. It was how I got over my initial fear of writing a poem, so it does work. 

Of course we haven't had our TMA01 marks yet, I may be a quivering heap when they arrive. But for now, I am keeping on keeping on in the hope that if I do then at some point something will escape and be worth releasing into the big wide world.

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I have a blog!

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Edited by Jackie Morris, Tuesday, 11 Feb 2020, 11:34

There’s another thing ticked off the bucket list. 

I did once consider having a blog, I would have called it ‘not drowning, just waving’. So I guess that’s what this is now.

So if you do read this, here I am, just waving.



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