Box of Inspirations
Category: Writing
Tags: inspiration artefacts writing memoir aids

Box of inspirations



I’m in the process of decluttering. Sorting out a lifetime’s accumulated junk. Wondering why on earth I have held on to so much stuff for so long.


But it’s not hard to hang on to the implements with which you’ve written so many words through your life: notes, letters (many many letters), cheques, contracts, shopping lists, thoughts, story ideas - the stories themselves, poems, and reminders. 


Rifling through my box of pencils I can remember where I was and what was going on in my life just by holding each one.


Do you remember when I used my big bulging button tin as my inspiration for my 2014 nano novel? It wasn’t a personal memoir, but I used it to help my protagonist (with dementia) remember poignant moments in her life. 



And so it is with these pens and pencils. In just the first handful I see the gold Sheaffer fountain pen I had for signing contracts when I was an IT consultant.  There’s the ICL training pencil from fabulous programming courses at ICL Beaumont near Windsor many years ago (oh those wonderful work colleagues.) And a multitude from hotels across the globe (oh those trips.) So many memories are all buried here in this clutch of pens and pencils.



Then there is this - the pencil from the Public Record Office in Kew where, in the early 1990s, I researched my mysterious father. This was before access to wartime records via the internet. This was when you had an appointment at the Public Record Office in Kew, were given a pencil (and only a pencil) with which to make notes. When requests were sent to the archives. When you waited for old yellowing original hand written files to be ‘brought up’. This was when I found what happened to my father, Pilot Officer  FJ Roberts RCAF DFM (the medal of courage), when he and fellow crew members were shot down in their Lancaster JB400 (L for La Loupe) of RAF 103 Squadron. It was the 5th Berlin Raid. I was five days old. And he was just 22. 



And this is why I took up writing again.




Do you have an old pencil box filled with memories?  With inspirations??


Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Category: Writing
Tags: writers abroad writing audio books audible








Then I’ll begin…

I’m not sure I should be admitting that I know the programme that started with these words. Do you? It’s Listen with Mother, a radio broadcast which ran in the UK for over thirty years. I remember my mum, with four children all under the age of five, sitting me down to listen to this programme whilst she juggled all the spinning plates she had to deal with. It was a mesmerising experience, I half-believed that the narrator was somehow in the box and would look around the back to see if I could let her out.

Since we’ve been travelling in the motorhome I’ve revisited this method through the Audible app from Amazon. It helped pass the time whilst motoring through wide empty spaces (yes, you guessed right, not in the UK!) and kept us alert enough to keep our eye on the road and our ear listening to the story. I chose thrillers as a genre because, for me, they lend themselves to the audible experience more easily than say a romance. They grip your attention enough to keep up with the story whilst still operating the vehicle in a safe manner. I must admit, the miles (or kilometres) just sped by and both Simon and I were gripped by the tension that each chapter brought. We stopped for comfort breaks, swallowed a quick coffee and were back in the van eager to listen on. The active equivalent of a page turner, I suppose.

When I started to write this blog, I imagined that young people today would not appreciate this form of storytelling, but I’ve since talked myself out of that point of view. Being so intricately attached to their smart phones and tablets, perhaps audio books are their preferred method and if it gets them accessing fiction then that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

It’s not a form I’d use on a regular basis outside of travelling, I don’t think. Luckily, I don’t have a long daily commute to work, I just roll out of bed along with my kindle. However, if I am doing something that’s going to take some time, like decorating, I always search for a drama on the radio to help pass the time with a chore I quite detest.

I know many writers are now choosing this method as an additional alternative for their readers but it’s not something I’ve investigated in any detail. That is perhaps a subject for another blog…

Gin-and-Water is the Source of all my Inspiration
Category: Writing
Tags: writing alcohol drugs

Gin-and-water is the Source of all my Inspiration

So said Lord Byron, though like all writers he could be guilty of exaggeration. Or not. It’s an interesting concept that doesn’t work for me. Give me wine any day. But seriously, I thought I’d do some research on the subject. Some of the results surprised me. Most didn’t, just the extent of the information...and consumption!

Horace seemed to agree with Byron: ‘No verse can give pleasure for long, nor last, that is written by drinkers of water.’ Without the gin presumably. Coleridge was known for his opium habit. Then there was Edgar Allan Poe, who was more than partial to brandy eggnogs. So was it just poets who were away with the fairies all the time?

I don’t think so, although quotes have a way of attaching themselves to famous authors, not always accurately. Some dispute that Ernest Hemingway ever said, ‘Write Drunk. Edit sober.’ It’s worth a thought, anyway. Apparently, Graham Greene completed The Confidential Agent ‘in six weeks under the influence of Benzedrine.’ Another much-quoted quip comes from F. Scott Fitzgerald: ‘Too much champagne is just right.’ Then it is said that Raymond Chandler got blind drunk to cure writers’ block when on a deadline to finish his screenplay of The Blue Dahlia, for which he earned an Academy Award.

The list goes on and on. Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, John Cheever, Ian Fleming, William Faulkner and Stephen King are some famous examples of successful novelists who allegedly liked to drink – a lot – as they worked. The Beats preferred drugs and wrote some of their best material under the influence of Benzedrine, heroin and LSD.

Charles Bukowski justified his drinking/writing partnership something like this: ‘Alcohol yanks and joggles you out of routine thought and everydayism.’ I can relate to that. I believe a little chaos in our heads can make us more experimental and boost creativity. Although I cannot drink and write successfully, I find when I’m a bit woozy-headed with a hangover my mind is more imaginative, and less orderly and PC than it usually is. Similar to first thing in the morning, when ideas flow more freely from the subconscious.

Plenty of female writers were drinkers too. Dorothy Parker was renowned for her cocktails. Carson McCullers is said to have written The Heart is a Lonely Hunter whilst imbibing sherry. Patricia Highsmith said that alcohol was essential ‘to see the truth, the simplicity, and the primitive emotions once more.’ Marguerite Duras was an alcoholic but produced dozens of top-quality novels. Her writing has been described as experimental, elegant, passionate and visually striking. Obsessive editing gave it clarity.

Jean Rhys, like several writers who drank, suffered from depression. Psychiatrists suggest the link between many writers and heavy drinking is manic depression and that writing is their salvation. Some died directly or indirectly from their habit but not before writing masterpieces first.

Without suffering from depression, I can still understand how intoxication can help release creative expression, but it can also detract from precision. The more we drink the less rational things become. Incoherence and sentimentality creep in, which gives Hemingway’s “supposed” quote credence.

I wonder if the hugely talented writers I’ve mentioned above would have been just as successful sober. Stephen King and Marguerite Duras both proved they could by writing high-quality novels after quitting the booze, but perhaps sobriety wouldn’t work for all of them.

I’ve mostly delved into the past as I’m not sure if modern-day writers are so prone to write under the influence. Perhaps they do but keep it secret. What do you think? And do you like a tipple yourself when you write? 


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