I woke this morning and noticed something strange about the light. Through the slats of our Venetian blind, the world seemed brighter than it should be. The reason for that was, of course…
We’re not talking the Arctic wastes here or anything – in fact, the snow isn’t even deep enough to cover the grass in our garden. Nevertheless, there have been accidents on the roads, it’s a headline news story, and myself and my husband have instantly turned into two old worrywarts. ‘I wonder will it stay?’ ‘Sure, how do I know?’ ‘Will we look up the weather forecast and see?’ ‘Those lads don’t have a clue. No point in asking them!’ ‘Right so. You know better than the weatherman, of course.’ ‘I hope it doesn’t stick, the whole country will grind to a halt.’ ‘Do you think I don’t know that?’ (I’ll leave it up to your imagination which speaker is which in this not-entirely-fictionalised exchange!)
Luckily, my husband has a day off from work today, so he doesn’t have to go anywhere. Tomorrow, however, he’s facing a long journey. So, I sincerely hope the snow doesn’t stay. It looks pretty and all, but after the winters we had here a few years ago I feel somewhat allergic to the sight of whiteness coating the world. I feel like those terrible, heart-freezing winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 took away all my childlike joy when it comes to snow. It wasn’t fun to be stuck on a bus trying to get home from work while watching the snow fall outside so thickly that nobody – including the driver – could see more than two feet ahead; it wasn’t fun trying to skid my way to the train station on treacherous streets made entirely of ice.
I’m looking out at our garden now and the sunlight is pouring into it, making everything look absolutely beautiful. But I’m not fooled. Avast, white stuff!
In other news, I had a busy – but rewarding – weekend. I did a lot of writing and rewriting, playing around with four stories that I’m tweaking for submission. Some of them are quite dark – we’re talking murder and totalitarian states and abusive families here – but some have touches of black comedy at their heart. It’s a tough balancing act at times, writing the sort of stories you want to write while also remembering that you need to place them with a magazine or journal willing to publish them. As well as being your best work, they sometimes need to fit a certain ‘ethos’, too. Sometimes, of course, writing with a particular focus in mind can help you to create. As I’m learning, putting parameters on your work can sometimes bring fantastic results. It almost seems counter-intuitive, but so far it has worked very well for me. Restricted word-counts, restricted themes, using prompts – they’re all worth a try.
Sometimes, though, the problem I have is not finding a starting point – it’s finding a finishing point.
On Saturday evening I was quite tired, and trying to work out the ending of a story. I’d got it to a certain point, and then I hit a wall. I really liked the story idea, and the character’s voice, and I knew I wanted to finish it, but I’d written myself into a dead-end. I was bleary eyed. I could barely see the laptop. Eventually, I had to close the computer down, but there was no rest for my brain. For the rest of the night – even into my dreams – potential endings for this story popped, with metronomic regularity, into my frazzled mind. Some of them were patently ridiculous, and others were clichéd or just, somehow, inauthentic. Finally, I came up with an ending I liked, one I could ‘see’ in my mind’s eye. (Of course, I was supposed to be sleeping peacefully at the time. But that’s just details, right? Right.) My poor husband had been attempting all evening to get me to see sense and stop working, and I did try. Just not successfully. As a result, I woke up even more tired the following day. And, the story is still not finished.
I have learned two things from this. ‘Exhaustion kills inspiration’, and ‘listen to your husband.’
In an attempt to give my brain a rest, I also started to read a biography of Mrs. Beeton, the most famous homemaker/cookery writer (arguably) in the world. I had a notion that she lived to a great age and was the matriarch of a huge, bustling family; you’d need to be an imposing figure to achieve the sort of reputation she has, wouldn’t you? In fact, though, I’ve learned she died in childbirth at the age of 28, and her reputation was largely concocted by her husband and publishers. I sort of lost a bit of my faith in the world when I found this out. However, the book is excellent – impeccably researched and really interesting, particularly if you’re a fan of Victorian era-Britain. It’s so rich with detail and atmosphere that you feel like you’re walking the streets along with the people being described.
I recommend it, despite the fact I’m not finished it yet. It’s a large tome, so I’m only about one-third of the way through it at the moment.
And, as well as all that, something wonderful happened. Are you ready? Here we go, then.
I am going to have a story published in a literary magazine.
I’m not saying which one yet, because the editor isn’t sure when the story will be published, but as soon as I have the details, I’ll be shouting about it here. Needless to say, I am a very happy person.
I hope all your weekends were fun, relaxing and full of good things, and I hope your Monday looks bright.