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Sunday, 17 June 2012

38,000 Words

When I was just a little girl,
I asked my mother, what should I be.....

As a child I would spend hours reading and writing. From a very young age I created characters and stories that I would share with my family, friends and teachers, and everyone who had the (perhaps dubious) honour of experiencing my burgeoning literary ambitions agreed that without a doubt I would one day have a book to my name.

Now at the tail end of my twenties, that debut novel is still a distant dream and my career to date has been based around crunching numbers more than playing with words. A couple of years ago however I was lucky enough to get introduced to a merry band of Savages who have ensured that as well as Excel Spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations there is still room in my life to enjoy the pleasures of putting pen to paper (or the slightly less romantic sounding finger to keyboard).

Since joining the Leeds Savages and its pre Savage writing group incarnation I've had the honour of meeting many talented, interesting and above all creative individuals. There are a number of 'regulars' at the meets but their writing (and art) is anything but - the contributions showcased every other Wednesday never fail to surprise and entertain. One of the biggest joys of the meets is that although a set topic or theme has been prescribed in advance, you really have no idea of what aural treats you will experience on any given occasion. Poetry and prose receive equal weighting; deeply personal and moving narratives sit comfortably alongside fantastical tales of other worlds. More likely than not the big topics of love and death (well, death in particular) will be featured somewhere; and it's rare to not experience a few belly laughs at some point.

Whilst listening to the contributions of others is always rewarding, the greatest sense of satisfaction comes from creating and sharing your own work. I am continually envious of those who produce something for every single task, with many of the members being prolific way beyond knocking out a fortnightly masterpiece. I can sometimes feel a bit despondent, disappointed in myself even, when I fail to find the time / motivation to write something for a meet, however its not the be all and end all. The experience of listening to others, offering constructive criticism and encouragement, is just as key to being a 'Savage' as putting pen to paper; it is after all not simply a writing and sketching group but a 'social and developmental forum for artistically minded people'.

Virginia Woolf stated that in order to write a woman needs 'A Room of One's Own'. Nice sentiment, but I have a house of my own and still I can never finrd the space to write. To me, rhe issue isn 't physical space, but mental space. A state of mind where one can be free of distractions; where the realities of life both profound and mundane melt away to create the perfect conditions for productivity.

This weekend was yet another where I had intentions to get writing but other things got in the way - washing, ironing, mowing the lawn, preparing for holiday - doing anything other than write. What I did get round to doing however was reviewing everything that I've written in my two and a bit years with the writing group, and after I copied all of completed poems and stories into a single file I was pleasantly surprised to find that they came to an almost respectable 38,000 words. 26 short stories and 16 poems later I've got a 100 page file to which I can turn whenever I feel like my creative juices have run dry and say - 'In the first four years after you left university and entered the big wide world you didn't write a single thing. Look how much you've achieved since then!'

Admittedly 38,000 words over 28 months might not be much compared to those who knock out a few thousand every day, but as someone who works long hours and leads a busy life, I think that's still something to be proud of. I've got at least another 10,000 words of unfinished work kicking around, so my aim now is to complete some of those pieces that for one reason or other were cast aside and get that total up to 50,000 words by the end of the summer. . Time to recapture the spirit of that little girl who would frantically write about talking pigs and entire worlds within filing cabinets, writing for the sheer joy of it rather than anxiously fretting about deadlines and word counts.

Who knows, I could even hit 100,000 words within the next twelve months.....

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Summertime Blues

So here it is, yet another damp, dull bank holiday weekend where dreams of BBQS and sunbathing are cast aside for cagoules and sturdy shoes... Last week presented us with a freakish treat in the form of almost tropical temperatures and a brief escape from reality. Today it's business as usual and the flipflops and vest tops look like they can go back into storage for a while. Anyhow, the joys of British weather inspired a short and hopefully sweet poem that I wrote for this week's writers group. Enjoy.....


The second the thermometer passes 20 degrees
There’s far too much flesh on display
From the kiddies park to the supermarket aisle
The short shorts have come out to play
Boob tubes and bare moobs are pounding the street
Young and old parade round without caring
For the daily routine, swept aside as they strive
For their white bits to get a good airing  

Like mad dogs they flock to secure a good spot
Blankets spread stake their claim on the sun
Some drift away to blissful dreams
Others revel in Bacchanalian fun
Glorious days rush by; summer’s sweet haze
But alas, all good things come to an end
Seven days later the memory fades
Washed away by a wet weekend