Although I started to write Sophie Lives for a peice of coursework from Foundations in Creative writing with the Open College of the Arts, I am going to make the use of social isolation to continue with writing this novel. I’m not concerned about making rapid progress, just little steps. There’s no need to rush.
It’s not easy to develop the initial idea, but I have added more to the first chapter, which begins with the link to Sophie Lives above. However, saying it’s not easy doesn’t mean to say that I havent been able to continue writing, because I have, and further possible developments have come into my mind. Although I am currently adding to the day that Sophie comes round from her overdose, her sister has come into the frame, although we haven’t met her as yet. This has opened the pathway towards Sophie getting to A and E, and then how she ends up in a psychiatric hospital. I have already written a very small part of that scene, which can then move me into the second chapter.
I’m pretty sure that I am not following the best plan for writing a novel. I have previously read that people develop a plan for the novel before they begin to write; ideas for structure and how the book progresses. All I know is that I am going to write of Sophie’s journey through her pain and into recovery, intersperced with flash backs from the abuse that she suffered at Mar’s hands.
It’s quite intense to write about at the moment to be honest, and I am writing this reflective commentary for my diary, which allows my thoughts to crystalise. It also means that I can have a break form the mental and emotional intensity.
My photography posts have been absent recently, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not making hundreds of photos. One of my projects is massive, and will take several months to complete. The daily commute can be both monotonous and exciting, depending on what you notice as you go from place to place. I’m producing a photographic map of the London underground system, recording points of interest in the vacinity of the tube stations.
Tottenham Hale Station (Victoria Line)
Embankment Station (Northern Line)
Snippets is a project in which I record a short piece of a conversation which I hear, that’s placed with a photo that I take at the same time. These snippets will be presented in a photobook.
I use vaseline on my face now. Do ya?Yeah, at night, not during the day though. Yeah yeah.
If you’re a hundred and you do not die the queen will give you a letter. Nanny Rita is nearly a hundred. She’ll get a letter if she’s not dead.
The third project, and I can’t tell you why on earth I’m making it is photographing bikes I see around London. How bizzare.
One of the beneficial aspects is that I don’t have an emotional connection to the subject matter. Much of my photography is an explanation and an expression of who I am. These projects are giving me a break, something joyful to work on. It’s also a relief, as much of my creative writing is emotionally charged and auto-biographical.
This exercise combines three aspects we’ve covered in Part One: freewriting, the writing diary and reflective commentary.
- Freewriting. Consider this quote, which is said to come from the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg: “Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” Think about this quote for a minute or two, then complete a five-minute free write about these thoughts.
My passion is where my source, light and strengths will come as a writer. I’m very open about my life and experiences, both positive and negative. This authentic writing style has helped me to develop an online community and to build relationships. I do not hide my madness. I can also see that this authenticity will be a huge bonus in writing short stories or a novel. Writing about what I know. My opening idea for Sophie Lives comes from my experience of being abused and from my understanding of domestic violence and the tragedy that in the UK 2 women are murdered every week by their current or ex partner. This is something that I feel angry about. Writing from Sophie’s perspective of abuse and recovery is something that has the potential to be powerful.
- Writing Diary. Read your freewrite through and think about your writing journey – the good and the difficult parts to this exercise. Make notes in your writing diary about the experience. Be as open as you like – only you will read this account.
Firstly, other people will read through my account. I don’t mind this. My community matters to me and I welcome feedback and interaction with others. However, there are some pieces of writing that will remain behind closed doors until they are complete and ready to be seen. For example, I will only reveal one more small passage from Sophie Lives, and then I’ll develop the rest of the novel in private.
Writing from a prompt has been easier than I have expected it to be. It’s a very good way to approach and develop writing. I can see why the notebook is so important, it will become a source of my own ideas and prompts, which are far better than the prompts from others. Having a starting point that comes from the heart will be the driving force of successful creative writing.
- Reflective commentary. Read through the notes you’ve just made on the original exercise and start to think how much of this you’d want to share with your tutor. Also think why you’d want to share this. (Check the ‘two-fold purpose’ above.)
I have absolutely no problem with sharing anything I write with my tutor. I feel no shame about my writing, I don’t fear critique; the opposite is true, I value feedback from my tutor, she’s an experienced author and can guide me on my journey. Yes my reflection is self-critique and this is highly valuable in developing myself, I get that, it will be a source of strength, but I’m open to my tutor reading anything I write.
Freewriting will also be a source of overcoming writers block, which all writers experience from time to time. I had creative blocks while I was studying photography, and getting out and taking photos for enjoyment and developing personal practice helped me to move forward. It’s no different with writing. It troubles me that creative writers on the course are not expected to have a blog and are encouraged to secrecy. Why should creative writers be treated differently than other students? Yes we do need to keep personal projects behind closed doors until they are complete and ready to be published, but coursework doesn’t need secrecy.
I have decided to have one post for my notebook so that I’m not having to continuously open different posts on my blog to recall ideas, that could be quite a painful thing to do, and I’d lose track of ideas and themes.
Something that I could journal or explore as I go through counselling.
Pronouns – they/them
Wearing a blouse in public
Stew and dumplings
I can smell the sweet aroma of stew and dumplings in kentish town road. It makes me want to find out where its coming from and to eat it. I’m going to have to find a recipee, make it and see if I can write poetically about it. My cousin makes it in a slow cooker and it doesn’t have the same aroma. Maybe a few hours in the cooker will be the best way.
I’m surprised by freewriting and how it has been such a positive experience. My initial response to reading about the freewriting exercise was dread and anxiety, with thoughts that I would be writing random words without a clue about what to write.
However, this has not been the case. I generally start with a word or two in my mind as a prompt for my writing, and I have found this to be helpful. From this the words have flowed from my pen, and as I produce sentences more thoughts begin to coalesce.
The coursework asked us not to consider structure, but this had also been a natural part of the exercises for me. I’ve managed to write prose, snippets of auto-biography and a nonsense poem. I particularly like the nonsense and the poem that I produced.
This morning I wrote for over 20 minutes, which is quite a long time, especially as I originally thought that 5 minutes would be too long.
I can see how freewriting can help people overcome blocks that can surface with writing. I don’t expect this form of writing to be so natural all of the time, but it has been a positive experience so far.
This is a page in which I will update ideas for Sophie Lives.
Sophie is going to have flashbacks of the domestic abuse that she suffered, and I wrote part of one of the flashbacks. Three o’clock in the morning is as good a time to write as any other.
Sophie is going to wear clothing which is black, or that is not feminine in any way as she does not wish to attract attention to herself.
She can learn boxing or a martial art so that she builds confidence and a means of defending her self. I want her to get help with coming off of methadone, and for her mental health, but not an inpatient admission. Maybe even at some point on her journey into recovering from domestic abuse sexuality could be explored. An existential crisis that leads her into a same sex relationship.
- Martial arts
- Lesbian sexual identity in response to violence for a previously heterosexual woman
“And it wasn’t just that I’d never let go during sex, it was that I’d never truly let go in any experience I’d ever had.” (p138)
This is why photography is so important to me. I let go as a photographer. I am free to be in the moment, at peace even at peace with my insanity. My camera is my haven.
“The girl who has already got out, leans back into the cab, as if she wants to give me a kiss, but I’m too far from her. ‘Have a nice life. ‘ she tells me. ‘Have a beautiful life.’ I laugh, charmed, and say ‘I’ll try.’ She looks suddenly earnest, totally serious. ‘Please do.’ she tells me.” (p142)
Beaumont, S; 2008; Thirteen; Newcastle Upon Tyne ; Myrmidon
1) Sit somewhere that is comfortable for writing and where you won’t be interrupted. Even if your usually a ‘straight on to the computer’ kind of writer, try this exercise by hand first if you can. Make sure you have plenty of paper to write on and a way of telling the time – a clock or watch is best. Don’t use your phone to time yourself or you might be interrupted by texts and calls.
Put your pen to paper, start writing and don’t stop – don’t let your hand stop moving at all – for five minutes. It doesn’t matter what you write. If you can’t think of anything, write ‘I don’t know what to write’ over and over until another thought occurs to you.
Remember that no one will ever see your freewriting, so you can be completely uninhibited.
I wrote the following by hand and am now typing it up.
Daylight; Thankyou Mother Nature
I don’t believe there is a god. Evolution has so much going for it, so much evidence, its impossible for me to deny, so I have no concept of God. I’ve tried to force my myself to believe, but to confirm, but the concept makes no sense to be. However, I do pray to mother nature. My day begins with routine, and addressing the issues I may face this day and for the strength to overcome my weaknesses. It’s really hard to write without structure as I go along. I can’t help it this morning, it’s coming to me naturally. I’m really enjoying this creative writing course, and I’m loving that I’m studying again. Creative writing is no longer second best. Thankyou Mother Nature.
“A lifetime clearly lay between them, and I had a sense that their affection was coloured by a mutual disapproval that was very real, yet to weak to break their bonds.”
Beaumont, S; 2008; Thirteen; Newcastle Upon Tyne; Myrmidon Books LTD
Rabbit Hide and Seek from exercise 1.6
Freewriting is something that I have never tried. It’s something that I look forward to trying. I’ve heard it said that it’s the best way to overcome writers block as it makes use of different neural pathways, and this in turn creates a shift in entrenched habits.
Some points to take away from Nina’s writing.
- Build up slowly from 5 minutes to 20 minutes.
- Many writers use this technique (it’s common because it works [sic]
- Don’t give up if it doesn’t bring immediate results, it takes practice.
- Writing upon waking is most successful but you can freewrite when ever.
- If you don’t have pen and paper then use the notepad on your phone.
- It’s about freedom to write.
- It may help to have a prompt, a subject, word or sentence.
- Keep writing until the time is up even if you write ‘I don’t know what to write’
- It isn’t meant to be seen by others (although I probably will post the freewriting assignment on my blog [sic]).
- Don’t correct you writing or add structure or form.
Nina; 2015; Go with the Flow: a Strategy for Writing; Online; AT: https://www.oca.ac.uk/weareoca/creative-writing/go-with-the-flow-a-strategy-for-writing/ (accessed on 29/02/2020)