Came across this today from Nikita Gill. Simply beautiful. Hoping this comforts others as it has me.
Came across this today from Nikita Gill. Simply beautiful. Hoping this comforts others as it has me.
A while ago I read this poem at work and thought of it again late last night after this week started with International Women’s Day. I work at The Reader, where literature sits at the very heart of what we do. Internally, we read as often as we can together as a team, it’s wonderful.
The below poem by Lucille Clifton is short but powerful. It’s a piece of writing that I hope will stick with me for a long time to come. Strength and power.
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
I’ve not put pen to paper in a good while now, it’s difficult to carve out time when there’s an 18 month old running around and you’re trying to do your day job properly. Yes, what silly excuses, and the likely real truth is that 2020 has made it difficult to tap into that creative side of my brain, I’m sure others can relate to this dead-end feeling after a testing year. I guess clinging on to the fact that a little bit of joy or moment of clarity can sometimes ignite a spark again, is comforting.
After a wonderful, peaceful morning at the seafront today (on our daily walk!) I was reminded of the importance of listening to mind, heart, and soul. How taking those moments (amidst the chaos) are vital for ensuring you stay awake to those creative whispers, finding energy, and to look beyond the obstacles of everyday life, remind yourself of you. This led me to revisit a short piece written by Meg Rosoff (author of How I Live Now) about finding your voice as an author. In the piece she challenges you to question who you are, who you really are, ‘what is the essence of your personality?’
Sometimes when writing, you find yourself staring at a blank page, unable to get anything down, resulting in feeling a horrible pressure to ‘find your voice’, ‘find the characters, ‘find the theme’ etc. It’s refreshing to read her advice and not to be afraid of going to that deep place within and connecting to your subconscious mind. Not easy at all, but the beautiful ‘thing’ happens once you get there, once you really know yourself, warts and all. Rosoff sums this up as:
‘In writing, a powerful flow of energy between conscious and subconscious mind will result in extraordinary occurrences. Characters will behave in ways you had not anticipated. Twists of plot will astound you. The part of your brain that concocts elaborate dreams while you sleep will emerge in daytime, informing your story in ways you might never have anticipated.’
Finding that connection within which will result in ‘a powerful flow of energy’ is no mean feat, but I for one am keen to stay awake to those occurrences of thoroughness and deep meaning. To keep creativity flowing, to bring those moments, just like those of this morning at the sea, of the conscious and subconscious to the forefront and maybe then readers should be able to ‘hear the contents of my mind, heart, and soul.’
‘Find out who you are. Let your voice gain power as you go. Then write your book.’ – Meg Rossof
Lots of things going round in my head at the moment, but nothing I can actually make sense of, very strange times.
So for now, a quote from Tennyson to spread a bit of hope and reminding us ‘to find’ and ‘not to yield’
This morning, I managed to have another read though the Letters to Note anthology and Letter No. 079 is pretty good, especially for budding writers. In fact, even a published writer would likely find truth within the words and make use of the advice.
This particular letter, written in 1934, is a correspondence between Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway writes the letter in response to a request from Fitzgerald asking for his opinion on his new novel. This is after he’d written The Great Gatsby and was in fact Fitzgerald’s final novel.
The intro to the letter, from Shaun Usher, includes the below:
‘Hemingway certainly didn’t hold back and replied with a brutally honest letter that contains valuable advice for writers the world over.’
I won’t type out the whole letter as you may have the pleasure of coming across the anthology one day, or in fact already have it. But, as a writer who frequently believes their work isn’t great (and I know I’m probably not alone in that thought) this letter was comforting to read. Hemingway tells it how it is, and encourages you to not overthink what other people will say about your work.
Few highlights of the letter below:
‘That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best-make it all up-but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.’
‘Scott for gods sake write and write truly no matter who or what it hurts but do not make silly compromises.’
‘That what dries a writer up, not listening. That is where it all comes from. Seeing, listening. You see well enough. But you stop listening.’
I paid more attention to this one because we sometimes get so involved with our work that we may miss something brilliant, simply by not listening. Appropriate advice for life in general too; being, seeing, listening.
My personal favourite and easily identifiable as Hemingway-esque advice:
‘For Christ’s sake write and don’t worry about what the boys will say nor whether it will be a masterpiece nor what. I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.’
Savour that one word, one sentence or one page of sheer brilliance and thrive on it.
‘Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it – don’t cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist – but don’t think anything is of any importance because it happens to you or anyone belonging to you.’
We get too hung up on what others may think that I forget how good it actually feels at the end of a writing stint to realise what I’ve done isn’t half bad and remember it’s an achievement to get any words down at all. An excellent letter that I will come back to again and again when those moments of self-doubt appear and stunt creativity.
Read the letter in full if you can and hopefully it will ignite something within that you thought was lost.
‘All you need to do is write truly and not care about what the fate of it is.’
‘Go on and write.’
One of the main threads in my current novel is the friendship between Joseph Ventre (protagonist) and the young Bella Moretta. As much as I enjoy the research and the historical elements when writing this book, developing Joseph and Bella’s friendship has been and will continue to be my most favourite part!
I remember, as a child, reading books such as The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, and the friendships within those stories made me want to jump right into the pages and be with Mary, Dicken, and Colin as they discovered the garden, or ramble through the fields of Avonlea with Anne Shirley and Diane. Similar to these examples of famous literary friendships, Joseph and Bella are two very different personalities; Joseph being timid and sensible, whereas Bella has a feisty, mischievous streak to her character. As the author, this is the fun part for me, balancing the two and ensuring that the reader will feel their relationship develop in, hopefully, a beautiful way, particularly as they navigate the war-torn streets of Liverpool together.
The ultimate goal for me is to keep their internal threads connected so the reader wills them both on, to succeed, to win. I want people to root for these two young characters and although it’s fictional, maybe real-life friendships could be strengthened along the way too.
It’s been Wimbledon overload the past week or so on my social media and I was lucky enough to be on Centre Court last Friday (in the stands that is… only in my dreams do I don fresh whites and play a 5-setter!)
I went along with my Dad who got me interested in the game a few years ago, although he’s been playing for many, many years. However, there was a period of time when he didn’t play at all. Life happened. But about six years ago he joined our local club and rekindled his love for the game.
Whilst enjoying our strawberries and cream in the sunshine of SW19, I thought about how we go through life awakening different skills and passions within us, perhaps allowing said things to dwindle. But, when the time comes, there’s something so joyful about reigniting the flame and remembering how good it makes you feel. Whether it’s a physical skill, like Dad and his tennis, or drawing, painting, or picking up that jigsaw that’s collected dust, you feel better for it don’t you?! I feel great every time I finish another draft of my novel, pen a new poem, or take a photo worthy of a place on the mantel piece.
I felt this feeling from the professional players we watched at Wimbers. One player is in a ‘comeback’ phase of his career, so even though he trains with the best of the best, it was clear to see that feeling of joy ooze from him, he fanned the growing flame, the excitement of winning one more point…
A simple thought really, but one for me to hold on to – dive back in your passion and keep your eye on the prize.
Last weekend we packed a small travel bag and escaped to North Wales for a beautiful weekend, surrounded by the most picturesque landscape and great friends. It was, quite simply, just what the doctor ordered! A reminder to myself that nature and being outdoors is so bloody good for you, as is taking time out of your normal routine and listening to your mind and body.
Here’s a few photographs of our daily views:
At one particular moment when wandering along the beach in the soft evening sun, I was reminded of The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry. I’ve read this many a time but this seemed to be the right moment for me to dig it from the back of my mind.
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
We’ve been blessed with some beautiful skies these past couple of weeks. Feel like there’s a story hiding in that little window to the left…
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Personal site of Jane Davis, Founder & Director of The Reader. Mainly reading & thoughts about reading, plus some of my obsessions.
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a collection of words about my average, bog-standard life accompanied by some sub-par illustrations that depict selected moments in said life
How can you not be fascinated by the history of Liverpool! - If Liverpool did not exist, it would have to be invented” - Felicien de Myrbach.
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easy reading is damn hard writing