The Black Destruction of Words…

As writers we all want to create something new, something poignant, something funny, something heartfelt, something honest…We strive to find that perfect phrasing, that sentence that says more in a few words than a paragraph could. We want clarity, perfection – drama.

We strive to delete all the unnecessary words, to strip back to what’s not needed to what simply is. It’s a hard task. Then there’s the inspiration. Where to start, how to draw together an idea from the hundreds of bubbling brooding thoughts of our mind.

What if, there was a way of using another’s work, and creating something, totally unique, unrelated to what was there before, that brings life, colour and meaning to a piece of work. Well, I introduce, Black out poetry.

Created by Austin Kleon, the idea is simple. Take a newspaper, find an article. Do not read it, do not spend time working through the article, do not try to force something out of it that is already there… Find a word – A phrase – something that stands out. It could and probably should be random, something that stands out to you. Skim for related words, words that fit the idea or the topic, the mood you’ve already chosen. Get a marker pen. Heres the fun bit… Draw around your chosen words, link the words across the page, and create something ingenious.

It sounds easy, but it’s a skill, a talent and something that will take time. Everyone can do it, but its a new way of working and as we all know, it takes a little time to adjust. When your little poems formed, black out everything else. Wipe the page clean so its only your words, your work that stands out against the darkness. You’ve made your first poem.

Blackout poetry provides a great starting point for all poets, writers and those who enjoy literature in general. It gets your creative flow going, it allows in the shortest of time to create something unique from something plain, bland – the pages of a newspaper. You can use the poem as inspiration for a longer piece of writing, to adapt into an epic poem or simply, to hold on its own, as its own piece of art.

The best thing about Newspaper Blackout is simply, you can do it anywhere. Over a morning coffee, on the train to and from work, in bed when you can’t sleep, in any spare five minutes you have a day. We all know of five-minute exercises that are supposed to keep us in touch with our creativity and help our writing, but what better way to do it than to, force something from our minds and get stressed about that five minutes. Sit back, relax, and just do it.

Austin Kleon is to me, a hero in his own right. A figurehead for the generation of writers that are finding more creative ways to be, well, creative. To find art in the profoundest of places, to work with something that’s already there, to reinvent the written word and poem.

Stealing! I hear you say… How can something be creative, be individual, be unique, when you’ve stolen someone else words, when you’ve had no hand in the writing itself. If you’re still of this mind, you’ve missed the point of Blackout completely. Its recreating not reiterating. You aren’t working with something already there and condensing, your finding something new, something hidden, amongst the garble of corporate wording.

Now I’ll admit, I’m not that great. I’m hardly the next and newest Blackout poet, ready to set your minds alight and show you examples of brilliance but you know, its a new hobby. Its something exciting and more importantly, its something I enjoy. Why not give it a go, and see what you may discover, lost and found on your favourite broadsheet.

To get a better idea of what I’m talking about check out, Austin Kleon’s book “Blackout Poetry” or http://newspaperblackout.com/ for examples and ideas to inspire you all. The best thing about the website, you can post your own works, and if your lucky (such as my friend and colleague at Uni) Austin may just reblog it himself as a fine example, of just what he wanted to achieve.

But why stop at newspapers. Think of the possibility, every old book you hate, those long-winded Victorian epics that bored you silly, wouldn’t you like to destroy the text and create something, brilliant? A journal, a pamphlet, an old novel, a horoscope… The opportunities are endless. Suddenly every word ever written can be recreated, redesigned, reinvented, recreated.

We always say how can you write something new when everything’s been written once before? Well… start with the stuff that has been done, and find your own magic within…

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If we ever needed encouragement…

We all have days, days when we want to give up, days when we can’t see any point, days when we take yet another knock and think, is it all worth it? It doesn’t matter if it’s at work, if its home life, it’s a hobby, or an interest. Whether its something we’ve just started like that new gym regime, or something we’ve been doing for ages – trying to see ourselves better. Some days it’s a little bit too much effort.

Well, if there ever was a story to inspire, it comes once again in my beloved Mr Murray, who after his Wimbledon defeat, myself and the English Nation poured their hearts out for. A dream whipped away by the greatest man in tennis. We all said, how do you bounce back? How can you overcome something that took so much emotional strength from you, and so much passion to reach in the first place.

By winning, in straight 3 sets, 28 days later, beating the same man, on the same court, and take home a gold medal. It was never going to be an easy task but a glimmer of hope, a window of opportunity opened  and Andy took it. Maybe it was a grudge match, made it was revenge, maybe it was to prove himself but prove he did. The same emotional, shaky and unsure Andy had disappeared. A new man stood in front of us all.

Calm, collected, full of composure and relaxed. He played the best tennis of his life, he threaded the needle down the line more times than we’d ever seen, his shots were sublime, his speed and reaction as fast as ever, and Federer looked, well tired. It’s not to say that he wasn’t, that he wasn’t himself having an off day, but Murray took advantage.

He showed that in loss there is not defeat. That with hard work, with self belief and courage, you can bounce back and achieve whatever you wish. He won, the biggest match of his life, in perfect form and made us all realise, we need not give up on our dreams.

Rutherford, who went on to win a gold medal in the long jump, after defeat in Beijing, nearly gave up, nearly quit his sport and retired for good. How he would have kicked himself. He wouldn’t have realised his potential, wouldn’t have realised his dreams, and accepted his place as Olympic Champion. It would have been easier, to accept and to give up, but with more time, harder work, and the same support – just shows what can be achieved.

We need not give up on things we feel passionate about, when the boat gets rocked and a storm brews, when life seems to throw hurdle and hail storm, it may knock you down but it wont break you. For me, it was another time to realise that despite life’s woes there are so many things to be happy about, so much to look forward to, so much to strive for – so much more to achieve.

We’ll all have our break, it might not be in sporting history in front of 15,000 people, but we all have our moments, our chance to shine, our spotlights, surrounded by our fans – our families, our friends, our partners – ready to celebrate with us. Whatever your back breaker is, lets not give up just yet, because in a months time, your life could have changed completely.

You could write a book…

How many times is that bantared around? Anyone with a half creative brain, anyone studying English, anyone have ever had an english lesson, everyone thinks could be a writer. It’s mentioned like, going shopping or popping to the gym or losing a few pounds.

No. simply no. We cannot all write novels. We are not all gifted enough, it’s a skill, yes everyone can write to a degree, everyone can put across their voice, can write a little bit of a prose, can write things that their friends will gush over, but as in, getting a publishing contract and hundreds of sales, enough to live?

No. I didn’t take the creative writing modules at Uni for the simple reason, that I couldn’t handle, hearing people every seminar saying, I’m writing my second book, this is an excerpt from my first novel, I’m currently finishing off my first paperback… instead I had to listen to everyone bitching about it. Yes there are a lot of authors out there, but compared to the number of people actually living in a  country or in the world? It’s a TINY percentage and it’s getting harder, with funding limited and publishers not so keen to print.

Oh yeah, anyone can self publish, but that isn’t quite the same thing is it? The same sense of achievement, the same sort of, book deal that everyone (it seems) craves. I’m sorry to sound like a heartless woman, damning everyone’s hopes and dreams of literary success, I’m just a realist. I would love to be a writer, a full-time erotic fiction writer…

Oh yes, that’s the other half of my brain, spent delving into dark corners and crevices of passionate embraces and sexy encounters. I would love, adore, to be that good, to give up the day job, teaching and to just write, to do product reviews and enjoy my dark side. But it isn’t going to happen. I don’t write fiction, I write erotic tales, there’s no romance,  no plot, it’s just sex and that’s what I love – and it wouldn’t sell.

I hate this culture of everyone being an author. celebrities bringing out books by the week. Do you actually think they write them? Not some poor twit that can’t make it and is hoping that one day they’ll be recognised by their amazing skills in putting across Katie Price’s life story, and writing something rewarding.

I have an unbelievable amount of respect for writers, for authors and for publishers. The hours writers spend on their own, immersed in their own thoughts, in a story, trawling over sentences and syntax, and trying to get it, just right. Publishers, for the tine and commitment in reading, re reading, editing, making sure we get the very best novel from an author that they can. Its gruelling – it’s not an easy job. What if it doesn’t sell, what if your ill and behind on a deadline, what if you can’t pay your rent, what if you realise, you weren’t that good?

I am not disillusioned, but I am respectfully envious, not of their success, not of their lifestyle, but of their ability, that they have found their niche, and a skill that many of us just simply don’t have. Well, I guess that concludes my rant. Maybe one day we’ll all have a book, maybe we’ll all write about our lives and keep it hidden for eyes one day to see, maybe we’ll call it a diary or something…

Rediscovering your past love…

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For once I am not referring to men, or women. No I’m talking about hobbies and those things we used to love doing, yet somehow no longer have the time too. I’ve many, we all have, things in our past that we were almost obsessed with at the time. I danced, nearly gave up school for dance school at 11, swam for my county, amateur dramatics – performances, singing, dancing the whole she-bang (nearly drama school instead of Uni)… I played cards, was an avid poker fan, read for fun before Uni got in the way, played Badminton, Rock climbed…. and of course, the crux of and purpose of my post.

Played the piano. Since returning home for the summer and getting to play as much as I want, having a piano back has been quite something. I’d forgotten how much I’d missed it, the hours of practising, getting a piece, then playing as though you always could, the sanitation, my hands dancing over the chords and arpeggios, my long nails clicking against the ivories with each note. I couldn’t be any happier when sat at my piano for hours.

I get wrist cramp, I swear, I get up make a cuppa in a mood only to return with a “right you bastard” as I stare out the music, the notes, the staves tormenting me. It’s a love hate relationship and I love every minute of it. It’s not that I’m amazing, I gave up lessons after my grade 5 exam, not wanting to put myself through the torment of a theory exam, which now… you could say seems pointless but never mind, Oh! to be young and headstrong. But what does make the difference…

Its my passion. Its something I will always enjoy doing. I rarely play for others, I find it unnerving, I’m happy playing in the hall and if people can hear well then I hope they enjoy. But I play for me. For the personal accomplishment, for my own pleasure, for the satisfaction of completing something. There are rare moments in life when we can literally acknowledge progress, doing well. We work hard at work and feel like we’ve made headway but there’s no proof, maybe a smaller pile of papers, we cultivate friendships, but there’s no pat on the back, there’s just another name in a phone book and maybe an occasional text… That’s pessimistic I realise. But playing the piano for me is progress and accomplishment personified.

I can see me having learnt, I can feel the change and the growth in my playing, in my repertoire, in my mood. I have a favourite composer, I will save the details for a later blog but I determined to learn all of his work. I know that seems somewhat daft and copycat. I have no desire to learn or write my own music, it’s not one of my talents, I know that already, but what I do know is I love his pieces, I like playing them, the way they feel, the running notes, the epic crescendo’s, the softness…

So, this post really only has one message, as ever as a conclusion. What’s your passion? Go find something you loved doing, and do it. Whether it was a squash game with buddies every week, or a bath that you no longer get time to take, or swimming … or anything. Rediscover it, explore it, enjoy it. We only live once and life’s far to full of the un-fun stuff. Its time reclaimed the things we do love.

Quiet Time.

“Others inspire us, information feeds us, practise improves us, but we need quiet time to find us, to figure things out, to emerge from new discoveries, to unearth original answers”  – Dr Esther Buchholz

So I’ve been a little quiet of late, well for a week at least. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about blogging, or that I thought that well, I didn’t need to. More, simply put that… I didn’t feel like talking. There are times in your life when tis important to spend time with yourself, not really thinking about anything. Just spending time, sitting, clearing your mind rather than spending too much time contemplating the world.

For me I spend a lot of time in my head. I enjoy working through stuff, contemplating stuff, musing in thought and thinking about every little detail. Not of situations or people, I’m not one for getting paranoid or hung up over the little details, “What did he mean by that” – that sorta thing. More about general big picture stuff, or my own thought processes, my reactions to stuff. I’m a great believer in thought and the power of the mind, in growing as a person, in finding out about yourself, in understanding yourself, in healing yourself…

So i’ll apologise for my absence. But I needed some quiet time and that’s nothing against you it is just I wanted some time out from all of that. The past week has thrown up a lot of things to think about, too many in fact that I simply needed time to recuperate my brain and then spend some time over the next coming week going through stuff, getting my head around this weeks events.

Next time you feel like you need a break, from life, from relationships, from your own mind and its thoughts, then take one. Sit back and clear your head completely. Its easier said than done and I promise you it won’t happen over night but you will finally get to that point that you can sit and just, think of… nothing. Clarity, clear minded clarity.

So I’m back out of quiet time, ready to hopefully share my minds ramblings with you once again. I cant guarantee they’ll be any less jumbled or more coherent, written with more purpose or  intention than usual but they will at least be coming from an un-jumbled uncomplicated place.