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Make up the Fires, Bob Cratchit!
Category: Writing
Tags: A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens Scrooge Gratitude Writing Dianne Mackinnon


A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit.’

In one of the final paragraphs of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Scrooge’s character is totally transformed. And what has changed, after his intercourse with three spirits? (Dickens’ words not mine!) Nothing has changed externally. He hasn’t suddenly become richer or acquired a lot of good friends. No, what he needed for a happier life was there all along, he just hadn’t realised it. His sense of lack; his meanness, permeated his life and made it a miserable one. Scrooge awakens with a new sense of generosity, abundance and perhaps above all, a sense of gratitude. As he opens his window on Christmas morning he rejoices, ‘Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious!’

Recently, I read a blog written by American writer, Dianne Mackinnon. It was about how instilling a sense of gratitude can turn you into a happier person. Something we Brits find hard. We’re more comfortable grumbling and groaning like Scrooge. Being too happy goes against the grain and smacks of blowing one’s own trumpet.

Focusing on gratitude can actually improve your day and your mood. Studies have shown that making a gratitude list, even in your head, before going to bed, gives people more and better sleep. Dianne also provided a gratitude exercise, especially for writers. I recommend you either print this out and fill in the blanks, as quick as you can, or write the answers in your journal as you read through the exercise. Blow your own trumpet and revel in it! Here are my answers:

Writer’s List of Gratitude

Three books I’m grateful were written, so that I could read them

My list:

1.              The Silver Brumby, by Elyne Mitchell

2.              Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy

3.              Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks

Your turn:

1.              ___________________________________________________________

2.              ___________________________________________________________

3.              ___________________________________________________________

Three People/Groups Who Support Me As A Writer

My list:

1.              My husband

2.              Writers Abroad and Amsterdam writing group 

3.              My coach at Grow with the Flow

Your turn:

1.              ____________________________________________________________

2.              ____________________________________________________________

3.              ____________________________________________________________

Three Pieces I’m Glad I Wrote:

My list:

1.              My first published story inspired by the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle. It was fun to write and it got recognised!

2.              The story about the district nurse who cared for my mother when she was very ill. It never got published but it was cathartic and healing to write.

3.              Homecoming, which was recorded for Short Story Radio and meant I was invited to the launch party in one of Dickens’ London homes!

Your turn:

1.              _________________________________________________________

2.              _________________________________________________________

3.              _________________________________________________________

Three Places or Things That Support You As a Writer

My List:

1.              A good cup of Nespresso coffee.

2.              My word processing program.

3.              The internet connection that enables me to link up with other writers and research stuff I know nothing about.

Your Turn:

1.              __________________________________________________________

2.              __________________________________________________________

3.              __________________________________________________________

Three Qualities You Love About Yourself As a Writer 

My List:

1.              My imagination.

2.              My skill at creating a sense of place.

3.              My ability to be inspired by events and people.

Your Turn:

1.              ___________________________________________________________

2.              ___________________________________________________________

3.              ___________________________________________________________

I’d love to hear a few of your answers. Oh, and maybe a little early, but have A Merrier Christmas!



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Monday, October 05, 2015
Site news 5 October 2015
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Rules, Restrictions and Darn Right Spontaneous!
Posted by Crilly

George Bernard Shaw famously declared -

‘The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.’

We have rules to create boundaries by which we can live safely. A simple example is road rules. In Australia we drive on the left and as a  rule  most people adhere to that. (Imagine the carnage if we didn’t!)

It is compulsory to wear a helmet when riding a push-bike, swimming pools must be fenced and there has to be soft-fall on the ground in children’s playgrounds. These are just some of our many rules here in Australia.

If you are like me, you check your emails daily. Perhaps also, you find there are invariably some concerned with writing.

The types that say – ‘Avoid using this or it is better to do that.’

This got me thinking about how the myriad writing rules or suggestions affect spontaneity.

I wondered if for example, Charles Dickens worried about run-on sentences when he appeared to be more concerned with poverty and the lack of social welfare in Britain at the time.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair..." from  A Tale of Two Cities

Equally, was Jane Austen anxious about adverbs and adjectives when writing about the delicate and sometimes risky economic situations the women of that era found themselves in? It seems she also got away with double negatives as shown below.

"She owned that, considering everything, she was not absolutely without inclination for the party." from  Emma 

When hunched over a small table and squinting by candlelight, were these great writers constrained by the so-called writing rules? It seems not.

On researching this, I found articles saying ‘Never open a story with the weather.’ Use patois sparingly. Avoid exclamation points and the old chestnut, ‘Show Don’t Tell’ can be found everywhere!

V.S. Naipaul recommends never write long sentences, a maximum of 10-12 words (sorry, Mr Naipaul, I failed you in this blog!)

Use the active voice unless specifically requiring the passive and don’t get me started on irregular past participles and those awful dangling modifiers! There are times when I’m convinced I slept through some English lessons at school or like taxation laws, have new rules have been introduced merely to confuse?

After writing that first draft do you go back to the beginning and alter this or delete that aware that unless you do, it may cost you the writing competition?  What if the judge is known to have a predilection about this or that, do you adjust your writing to better your chances?  

 Are there rules that really annoy and frustrate you and inhibit free-flowing, spontaneous writing?

Or in conclusion, do you ignore the rules and scribble darn right spontaneously?

Then again, maybe you think like G.K Chesterton did when he declared...

‘There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.


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