Monday, 30 April 2012

Pens and Lines

My necessary tools for writing have always been a blank notebook and a pencil. This has always been the way. In the past I have been given notebooks for birthday or Christmas - beautiful notebooks, but I have put them away on a shelf because the pages are lined.

A couple of days ago I found myself writing fervently... with a Bic biro in a lined, spiral-bound notebook taken from work.

Why is this so odd?

I have always shut out the possibility of using anything but blank paper and an HP pencil because I thought anything else would quell my creativity. I built up this wall hoping to protect what I thought was my creative mind. Breaking through seems to have released something. Apparently not poetry, but certainly prose.

It seems my friend was right. I am now looking at the world from a different creative direction. Having this blog in mind I try to make everything interesting so I can write about it. Okay, sometimes I fail on the 'interesting' scale, but for me this feels creative. And this makes me feel good.

I even attempted opening a blank MS Word document to see if this encouraged anything more than a blog entry. Not yet, but perhaps I will keep trying. I can't limit myself and still expect great things to happen. I need to be open to anything, as long as it allows me to express myself.

Perhaps I shouldn't limit myself to the label of 'poet'? After all, poets write poetry... what I am is a creative mind. I just need to find my direction.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

"Really Good!"

I was wide awake at 2am this morning. I turned on my laptop to find that the internet was down again! It is strange, the feeling of being cut off from the world. Am I really that reliant on the connection with my laptop?

I crawled to the kitchen for a hot water bottle and hot Ribena (my security blanket) and stood in front of my fridge for a few minutes looking at the hundreds of word magnets, to see if anything would happen. Something did emerge, but nothing I care to share here.

Again, nothing I would care to share.

A friend of mine once told me to allow myself to be a bad writer. To put my work out there to be criticised. The worst reaction for me from friends or family is "it's really good!" I don't need you to spare my feelings! At least tell me why you think it's 'really good'! I need help to make it better. I need criticism, not false reassurance!

When a child paints a picture the mother's reaction is always "oh wow, that's really good!" not "the sky isn't green" or "a horse only has 4 legs" because that might hurt the child's feelings... as adults surely we are strong enough not to be hurt by peoples negative reactions? We should encourage them.

Then why do I refuse to show my work to anyone?

Maybe one day...

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Books in the Basement

Today in town I ventured into another Waterstones bookshop – one I do not often think about. This one has a basement. Not a ‘downstairs’ with windows and a revolving door – this place has no windows. No doors. Just a creaky staircase leading to the outside world.

The muffled pressure of thousands of voices bearing down on my from every direction… the smell… the rows upon rows of colourfully bound words screaming silently… I feel strangely overwhelmed. There is non-descript music droning in the background which drowns out the beautiful hush of the books.

It is interesting to see the people climbing down the creaking staircase; the students heading for the academic guides; the suited businessman towards ‘business management’; the grungy boy in glasses drawn to the sci-fi section (this may seem stereotypical but it is simply a current observation - I myself enjoy this genre). There is a tanned man in shorts (despite the rain) perusing the travel section, undoubtedly planning his next adventure.

All the while shadows in Waterstones uniforms move quietly between the shelves, their trolleys piled with lone copies of books gone awry. They pass unnoticed by shoppers consumed in their chosen pages. I feel a pang of jealousy for these ghosts in black.

And then there is me. Sitting, neutrally in the centre, not belonging to any section, any genre, in a slightly uncomfortable cushioned and for some reason animal-print armchair. I must look out of place, but I feel like I belong.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Square Peg

... this is what my boss called me. It is true but a little offensive considering they are the ones trying to jam me into a round hole. I didn't choose the hole! I never would have chosen the hole marked 'Human Resources' - I want as little human contact as possible.

At least when I am a librarian I will have contact only with people who want to be in the library - my kind of people!

I ventured into Central Library yesterday (not my favourite place since they replaced people with computers and books with DVDs). Perhaps if a book has a return date it will encourage me to finish it, rather than it sitting on a pile of other unfinished books with receipts or chocolate wrappers used to mark my slow progress.

I chose the biographies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Paulo Coelho (writer of The Alchemist). Both these men have had a profound effect on how people view the world. I want to find out what it takes for someone to find the power to change things. I recently read Nelson Mandela's 'Long Walk to Freedom'. He shows that, in having a complete and unflinching belief in something, you can change things not only for yourself, but for an entire country. An entire world.

Ghandi said, "be the change you want to see in the world"

I also read Wangari Maathai's 'Challenge for Africa' - this Kenyan woman believed that if every African were to plant a single tree, this would solve all of Africa's problems. I was in Kenya when Wangari died of ovarian cancer in 2011. Everyone was encouraged to plant a 'Wangari Tree' on the day of her funeral. The question everyone asked when meeting each other was "have you planted your Wangari Tree?" It was beautiful. We planted our tree in my mother's garden in Nakuru, Kenya. It is amazing how such a small gesture could have a profound effect on people's beliefs.

I can keep searching for my square hole, or I can carve one myself. But I don't know if I have the strength, the resolve, or the belief in myself. How do I find it? Because at this moment I feel weak and helpless. I have the tools but there is no instruction manual!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Charity Shops

When you hear the term "shopaholic" you probably think of girls going about town with hundreds of pounds worth of designer clothes. I suppose I am a small-time shopaholic. I love charity shops, but they have ruined me for high-street shopping. The phrase "how much?!" is guaranteed to pass my lips, or at least my mind. I can go charity shopping with £20 and come back with a pair of trousers, three tops and... various books. I find myself cringing at an item of clothing costing more than £5.

I suppose this is a good thing? Is there such a thing as being TOO frugal? My nine year old cousin has been taught well. She believes "they are like real shops but cheap!". I think is a good view for a child to have; to understand that something does not need to be expensive to be good.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Search Filters

Today I am wrapped in a blanket in my 'library' (the room dominated by my bookshelf), applying for as many jobs as possible. When I job-search online I always put 'filters' on - find me positions in these specific areas. I haven't done that today. Why limit myself? Yes, I have had to trawl through hundreds of jobs, but I don't want to miss out because something slips through the filters.

Had I discounted clinical roles my search would have been a lot quicker. I do not understand who would want to work in medicine. I have the greatest respect for these people but I cannot (do not want to) imagine it myself. I have enough trouble talking to someone on the phone. If they came in crying and covered in blood I think I would run screaming in the opposite direction!

Far too much pressure for me.

Give me books or paper and I am in heaven. Unfortunately the jobs I have found in libraries are either qualified positions or do not pay enough, although part of me is tempted to sell everything and live in a box so I can afford to earn pittance, just for the sheer pleasure of working in the environment I was born for.

I am currently awaiting a phone call from the Open University to discuss funding for my Humanities Course starting in October. I am fizzing with excitement at the prospect of learning! I enjoy reading non-fiction but to study with a purpose will give me the focus I am lacking. I do wish I could afford to go to university full-time - to be immersed in education, but circumstances prevent this.

Oh well, on with the search!

Thursday, 12 April 2012


I love spinning at salsa - it feels so natural to me, coming from a ballet background. Other dancers have to be taught to 'spot-turn' (to focus on one point to stop you getting dizzy) when it never occurred to me to spin otherwise. It is one thing I am known for at salsa - I am Spin Girl!

I also laugh a lot which puts a lot of people off. But this is why I love dancing so much. I laugh constantly and everything melts away but the beat and there is no time to think which, much of the time, is exactly what I need. My friends outside salsa do not understand why I throw myself into it.

The reason is impossible to put into words (at least for my mind at present) - not through lack of trying! Some kind of temporary catharsis occurs when I don my dance shoes.

Two, three, even four nights a week I can fall into bed feeling genuinely happy, even with aching feet.

No alcohol, no drugs... just dancing to the beat of the cowbell.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Broken Pencil

I was on the bus tonight and had the somewhat unfamiliar urge to write. I have unfortunately fallen out of the habit of carrying a proper notebook, however I always have a pencil - I find pens rather uninspiring. I did have a small, lined 'shopping list' pad with me and the urge to at least hold the pencil over the paper, if nothing else.

My pencil broke.

I have misplaced my pencil case, including my pencil sharpener. This realisation was strangely affecting. The first night in a long while I suddenly have the urge to do something remotely artistic and all I have is a small lined pad and a broken pencil.

My heart sank.

What would I have written had I the right implements?

I always find it strange travelling by bus at night - windows turn to mirrors. I try to look outside and all I see is myself. This has always fascinated me in a creative sense - trying to create some sort of metaphorical insight from this concept but I have no idea how to use it.

One night inspiration might strike, hopefully when I have remembered my pencil sharpener...

Monday, 9 April 2012


How many books am I reading? How many have I started and bookmarked? I have a compulsion that leads me into Oxfam bookshop whenever possible, I find an amazing book, start reading, then put it down. That's it. That's as far as it goes.

I need a new bookshelf. I have actually run out of space. Mum asked if I buy the classics because I want to look intelligent. I want to buy the classics because I want to find out why they have survived so long. Ok so some of them are really quite dull (not mentioning any names, Bronte and Dickens - sorry!) but I want to say I have read them.

I do love the ultimate classics by Homer, Socrates, Euripides etc. because they are the basis for all modern literature. They are beautiful, usually in a violent, bloodthirsty way but the stories have survived through the ages, from word-of-mouth all the way through to the printed word.

I find that incredible.

Sunday, 8 April 2012


I was told this blogging thing would help my writers block. The word 'blog' is forever spinning around my head but nothing comes from it. I keep thinking "no one will want to read about that" but I need to get it into my head not to write for other people. This is about me. If other people are interested that is just a bonus.

I have told people to burn my notebooks when I die. No one can ever read the rubbish I have written over the years. How can I be embarrassed or ashamed to read MY OWN work? I have written a couple of pieces I am proud of but most of it is just painfully desperate.

"every answer that I find is the basis of brand new cliche" - Tim Minchin

People have told me that many famous artists did not find fame until after death. How is this comforting? Fame is not really what I want - I just want to be happy with my writing. If other people think it is worthy of note then I would be happy with that.

I like the idea that poets don't really achieve 'fame' in the way other writers do. The idea of fame scares me. I am ridiculously shy and the idea that anyone would want their life to be open to strangers blows my mind. At least as a writer people would only know a name and whatever might be written on the dust jacket of a book.

Why am I talking about the possibility of a book? Really?