Tuesday, 30 March 2010

I Learned ...


16. I can climb a mountain if I want to.

I might not want to very often and it made my legs ache for days afterwards but I can climb a mountain. 

I climbed this amazing mountain in Wales last week. I didn't climb up the side in the photograph because I'm not sure I could have, I went round the side but it was still very steep. 

I didn't really believe that I could get to the top. I think I said, 'Sure, I'd quite like to see what it's like up there' without really thinking. We started walking and walking and it was steep and it got steeper. We walked until we got to the tip of the top, among the clouds. Now I know that I can climb a mountain if I want to. I never knew that before.

What have you learned about yourself recently?

Handmade Writer Giveaway on Our City Lights

The lovely Diana at our.city.lights is offering a final free place on the Handmade Writer E-Course. Head over there, leave a comment and maybe win a place. If you don't already read our.city.lights, oh dear, you really should. It's ace.

There are few places left on the Handmade Writer Course, which starts on 12th April, so if you don't win the giveaway book your place soon. I am so excited for it to start. Oh boy, it's going to be fun.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Write Away


Spring is here and I just want to write. I want to explore and daydream and put it all down on paper. Maybe you feel the same way?

It can be really useful to get feedback on your writing and that’s what I want to offer for free to four writers during April. I will chose one writer’s work (up to 1,000 words) to read each week during April and give detailed feedback by email. This could be an extract of a longer piece of writing or whole piece. It can be in any form i.e poetry, creative non-fiction, short story, life writing. I will read whatever you have written and do my best to help. The feedback will be constructive and supportive. Hopefully it will give you that push to write something during April and the encouragement to keep on writing. 

If you are interested in taking part in Write Away all you have to do is email me at amy@bringyourself.com with:

1. Your name and email address.
2. Title of the piece of writing that you want me to read.
3. Brief description of any particular issues you are facing with this piece of writing.

I will email the four writers directly to arrange submission dates.

Monday, 22 March 2010

I learned ...

Picture 1

 15. I am addicted to my laptop.

I love my laptop. There is no denying that. I love the internet too. But maybe I am addicted?

I am going away to spend a few days in the most beautiful house in the middle of nowhere. It's off grid, heated by a wood burning stove and the water comes from a spring.  All this wonderful eco stuff means no electricity and certainly no internet. I hope it will be relaxing but I worry a bit that I will miss my laptop. Is that really so terrible?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Secret of the Second Idea

Imagine that you have come up with the best idea ever. It might be a plot for a novel or the perfect way to describe your character. It just comes whizzing out of nowhere and lodges itself in your brain. You think no idea could ever be better. You might do a little 'I've got a new idea' dance or just feel smug for a while.

But I usually find that this isn't actually the best idea that I am going to have. It's usually just the most obvious idea. It might be a cliche or something I've heard somewhere before. The very best idea comes later. It might take some pondering but the second idea always comes and it's always so much better than the first. I think it's strength comes from not being the most obvious. It's usually more original and has more of me in it.

You might find that for you it's the third or fourth or twenty-eighth idea that is the best but for me the second idea is always the one to watch out for.

Friday, 19 March 2010

New Year Novel Duel ...

I stumbled across this interesting project - a writing duel between two writers, Chris Jackson and Rob Smedley. They each started to write a novel on 1st January 2010 and aim to keep writing until the end of the year. It is a battle, a race to finish writing their novel and document their progress.

Writing a novel can be long and lonely and I love the idea that two writers can spur each other on during the process in friendly competition.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

I Learned ...


14. I would like to live in a paint by numbers painting.

I am a bit of a fan of vintage paint by numbers paintings. Okay, I admit I do have a few of them hanging on the walls of my study. I like landscapes with trees, log cabins, farms, houses or the odd deer. I realised that when I look at these paintings I want to jump inside and live among those chunky blocks of colour. I'd like to see the world that way.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Handmade Writer Giveaway on Sleep is for the Weak

There is a chance to win a place on the upcoming Handmade Writer E-Course at the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. All you need to do is a bit of writing for the chance to win your free place.

The Writing Workshop is run by Josie and each week she gives five writing/ blogging prompts inspired by blogs, current affairs and daily life. Writers then post their responses to the prompts on their own blogs and link back to the Writing Workshop. It's a sort of writing community and a great way to see how different writers interpret the same prompts.

This week, by taking part in the Writing Workshop and posting your responses to the prompts on your blog before Sunday 21st March, you'll have a chance to win a place on the Handmade Writer E-Course, which starts on 12th April and runs for 6 weeks.

Head over the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop for all the details and to see Josie's fantastic writing prompts.

Thanks Josie for offering the giveaway. 

Monday, 15 March 2010

Making Time


Sometimes it can be hard to find time to write. There are always people wanting you to do  something else right now and so writing can easily slip to being your last priority. I want to share with you a few tips for squeezing more writing time out of a day. These are all strategies that really work for me and maybe some of them will work for you too. 

1 . Start thinking

You don’t need a pen or paper or even a computer to start writing. What I do is schedule my thinking time before I even start writing. So, if I am walking to the shops then I decide to plan a certain bit of a story in my head or work out a plot problem. It helps ideas to incubate and it's usually time that you would be wasting anyway.

2.  Carry a notebook

Take a small notebook with you everywhere you go. Try to write in it whenever you can. Write when you are waiting for someone or in the five spare minutes you have when you are early for an appointment. I tend to do these bursts of writing in the car or on the bus. Little and often is the key. You’ll soon feel like you’re getting somewhere.

3. Make extra time

I know it sounds terrible at first but getting up either an hour earlier or an hour later does work. If you can’t manage an hour then even 15 minutes will do. You get a chunk of extra quiet time to write.

3. Tell people that you are writing

I have found that this one really works. If you tell someone else that  are busy because you are writing then it helps you take your writing more seriously. It makes it more real somehow. Hopefully it will stop you putting everything else above your writing.

4. Take the time you do have seriously


Set yourself goals. Work counts and time limits work brilliantly. You’ll get more done if you use the time you do have more productively.

Do you have any other tips for making more time for writing in your life?

Friday, 12 March 2010

I Learned ...


13. Withershins

Meaning: Going in a direction contrary to the natural one, esp. contrary to the apparent course of the sun or counterclockwise: considered as unlucky or causing disaster.

I realised (after my last post about the word 'nerd') that I am a word nerd. Today, I wanted to learn a new word and found this obscure Scottish word.

When I was about seventeen and facing a daunting English exam, I decided that I needed to learn some big, impressive sounding words. Well, books are full of big words right? That was my seventeen year old logic anyway. So, I flicked through the dictionary and wrote down lists of words and tried to memorise them all. 

After she had marked my exam, my teacher took me to one side and asked what was going on. By sprinkling my new words throughout my exam, I had ended up writing nonsense. SMy teacher had no idea what I had written and I hardly knew what the words meant anyway. I vaguely remember that the word iconoclastic featured quite heavily.

I learned then that using big words does not necessarily make your writing better but using the right word, even if is a ordinary kind of word, will. 

I still like stumbling across new words and learning what they mean. But I'm not tempted to use them in my writing just for the sake of it. So, you probably won't see me using the word 'withershins' unless I really need to.

One Month To Go...

It's only a month to go until the Handmade Writer E-Course starts on 12th April. I am very excited and looking forward to meeting all the people who have enrolled so far. 

The response has been wonderful and I want to thank everyone for being so supportive and enthusiastic. Thank you to everyone who has told their friends about the course and sent them my way. It can be hard to launch a little business so I am really grateful for all your support.

Places on the Handmade Writer course have been filling up fast so if you want to be a part of this then register soon. It would be fantastic to have you along. All the info you need can be found here.

Thank you again and hopefully I'll meet you on the 12th April.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

I Learned...


I felt a bit like a nerd today. I spent most of it in a library surrounded by books about obscure things. Yep, I was being pretty nerdy and I liked it.

Slow Readers Book Club

I just joined the Slow Readers Book Club. I don't think I have ever joined a book group before. That seems odd. I'm sure I should have by now. I suppose I have done my share of talking about books with groups of people in other ways.

Slow Readers Book Club looks fantastic. It's a online gaggle of readers who discuss a set book. The best bit there is no race to finish the book and no pressure. The idea is connected to the slow food movement. It's all about slowing down, taking it steady and connecting with people as part of a community. Those are all my favourite things so I signed up straight away.

I love the possibilities for these sort of projects on the internet. Do you know of any similar online community projects that bring people together? Please share.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

I Learned...

11. My lucky charm broke.

Technically, it was chewed up by my littlest dog, Alfalfa. She was caught surrounded by all the broken bits.

It used to look like this ...


It was made from 50/60 million year old clay found in London and sculpted into the shape of one of the birds that live in the city. I'm not entirely sure whether it really was lucky or not but I liked to think it was. I tend to collect all sorts of bits and bobs that I think are lucky. This one was particularly beautiful and tactile.  I fiddled with it while I was writing. My novel-in-progress is called London Clay, and there are a few birds in it too, so it was a perfect good luck charm. 

Luckily, there are still plenty in stock at London Clay Birds so I will have to get myself another one. I hope that my next one is lucky and I will try to keep it away from curious dogs.

Do you have any lucky charms?

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

I Learned ...

10. One tree yields enough paper to produce 62.5 books.

What will happen to books? Will they stop being made from paper and ink? When will we all buy e-readers and download books? I ask myself these questions all the time. I wonder (as a writer, digital literature researcher and a reader) what will change. I worry a bit and then I get excited about all the new possibilities that I can't even imagine yet.

I was thinking about all this today and I found out that books, on average, use a huge amount of paper. I'm not sure whether I think we shouldn't use paper for books. We use paper for worse things. But it made me think about the world and the place that books have in it. I need paper books around for a bit longer. And libraries, I definitely need libraries full of books.

Monday, 8 March 2010


I have been writing a story for as long as I can remember. It is one particular story that I have been wanting to tell. It has been bubbling around in my imagination for years trying to get out.

It took me a long time to get started. I worried that it wouldn’t be good enough, that no one would read it, that even I wouldn’t want to read it. I tried and tired and failed to start and tried again. Then I decided to take it slowly and steadily. 1000 words at a time. I chipped away at it gently and now I have almost finished the first draft. I am about 5,000 words from the end. Of course there is editing and re-writing to do but this is the end of the first stage.
It feels huge but doesn’t feel how I expected it to. When I have been this close to the end of writing a non-fiction book, I want it to end. I want to email it to someone and never see it again. I want print all the pages off the computer and send them far away. I feel relieved and tired, proud of myself but ready to finish. This time I want to hold on to the book. I am not exactly sure how it will end and I like that feeling. I like it how it is and I don’t want it to finish.

It is funny that I didn’t want to start this book and now I don’t want it to end.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

I Learned...

9. A woodpecker sounds a bit like its laughing at me.

Sort of. I don’t think I had ever heard one before today. I have still never seen one. I need to change that.

I Learned...

8. I would rather live in a deciduous forest than a pine forest.

I would rather live in a deciduous forest than a pine forest. I learned this today while walking my dogs in a pine forest. I prefer the jumbled chaos of deciduous forests. Pine just seemed too neat.

I daydream constantly about living in a log cabin in the woods, with gingham curtains and a wood burning stove. But it would have to have high speed broadband and be near a big city. That’s where the dream always falls apart for me.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

A Field Guide to Now

I love reading My Topography. It's author Christina is such a talented writer. Her latest project is the brilliant A Field Guide to Now. She describes it as 'An illustrated collection of essays and prose exploring the present tense. A field guide to the marks and traits and habits of now.'

She is trying to raise enough money to fund the project and needs your help.

I have donated a chance to win a place on the Handmade Writer e-course (which starts 12th April) to supporters of her project. All you have to do is head over to her site and pledge money towards her project. She is collecting money through Kickstarter so it's really easy to donate.

I think this is such a fantastic project and really worth supporting. I think it is incredibly important to support writers who are bravely following their dreams. I know Christina would really appreciate your support.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

I Learned ...

7. Playing the accordion is very difficult.

I was given an accordion for my birthday. I wanted one badly. I imagined myself playing French songs, Bulgarian folk songs and the soundtrack from Amelie.

Then I got intimidated. It was so loud when I played it. I was worried about my neighbours. I didn’t want them to come round and ask me what was going on, like they did when I got a puppy and she shrieked all night like a monkey. The noises I was making with my accordion where that bad. So, I put the accordion on a shelf and ignored it for months.

Today I took the accordion down. I looked up simple sounding songs on Youtube. I tried again. Properly this time. I learned that yes, playing the accordion is very difficult.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Spinning a Yarn

We talk about writing in a similar way to crafting. We gather material, spin a yarn, weave a tale, unravel a story. We talk about the craft of writing. The processes are definitely similar. We hunt for scraps of ideas, piece them together and create something new. There is skill and technique needed to put the pieces together and in the way we talk about what we’ve done.

Both writing and crafting feel familiar to me. They feel part of the same thing - the process of searching for ideas, connecting things together, standing back and looking at the whole. I am fairly haphazard in both. I jump straight in. I either plan endlessly or don’t plan at all. I am wild with the scissors. I trim and snip until there is very little left. I make mistakes and end up with something I like even more.

I like that writing and crafting feel similar. Writing seems to feel less daunting if I approach it in a crafty frame of mind. It has always felt quite physical to me. I move words around the page to see where they fit best. Like planning a patchwork quilt, it takes a bit of rejigging to see where each word should go. Sometimes it feels like I am sewing ideas together. Other times it feels like I am patching up something old and giving it a second chance at a new purpose.

Writing is handmade. I don’t mean handwritten, I use a computer to write as much as anyone else. I mean, it’s created by the act of making. It’s brain to hands to output. You won’t have a hat or a quilted bedspread at the end of it but you will have something equally handmade.