New Year, New You: Creative Resolutions

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Is January 12th too late for a New Years Resolutions blog post? Maybe. Never mind. George Eliot wrote that “it’s never too late to be who you might have been”. Lovely Mary-Ann Evans: she gave me so much to think about for my undergrad dissertation, and she’s still teaching me now. Homegirl was a trailblazer, no doubt, as a writer and a feminist. But she also championed the right to change one’s mind. Evangelical Christian one minute, atheist the next,  a writer who sought to challenge literary stereotypes of women but who rejected women’s suffrage, Eliot’s/Evans’ life was anything but a straight line. When I was eighteen, and for some time after, I believed in the straight line. I knew everything about my life and the path it would take, and I was anxious and impatient to get going. If you’re an ex-boyfriend and I was sure about where your life was going too, sorry. Now, at 27, I’m less sure than ever what the right direction is. But I’m also less anxious. I think the paths probably overlap, and reconnect, to paraphrase Robert Frost. I think it’s not too late, to be who I might be. I think it’s not too late to be unsure. I think it’s never too late to be unsure.

Anyway, I like January. I like resolutions. I enjoy the monastic celebration of sobriety and the optimism of new beginnings. But I’m a realist, too. Fuck abs, man. I like carbohydrates and Netflix too much. My resolutions this year are about reading and writing. ‘A writer’ is the current version of me I’m enjoying trying to be. And because you can take the girl out of the secondary school but you can’t take the secondary school out of the girl, these resolutions are all written in the form of SMART targets: i.e. they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding and Timely. That means that when NYE 2018 rolls around, I can accurately assess if I stuck to them.

  1. Blog twice a week – to achieve this, I intend to include book reviews, records of literary achievements and reflections on the writing process.
  2. Write daily – A minimum of 500 words or a poem. Every writer worth their salt advocates for this habit. In the morning, preferably.
  3. Get an agent – All I can do is write to them. All they can do is say no!
  4. Enter competitions – At least one a week.
  5. Complete another manuscript – pressing save on my first one was up there with crossing the finish line of the Amsterdam Marathon.
  6. Read 30 books – I read 23 last year (that I can remember), so this seems manageable. I’d like to set a more ambitious number but I’m not the quickest reader and these targets are supposed to be Achievable. Six of last year’s reads were re-reads (usually for teaching purposes). I’d like to avoid that as much as possible, this year. There are plenty of never-read books already on my bookshelf, patiently waiting their turn.

Emily x

 

 

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Site Updates: am I a writer yet?

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In my classroom on World Book Day with Emma. Saigon, 2015.

When I was a teacher, I felt very confident that I was a teacher. It said it on my PGCE certificate. It said it on my GTC membership certificate. It said it on my job contract. It said it on my payslips. When I turned up to the building known as ‘school’ five days a week, I was regularly addressed by small people as ‘miss’, which is of course shorthand across the Western world for ‘female educational professional’ or ‘teacher’. There was no doubt then, that I was a teacher.

So when am I allowed to call myself a writer?

Well, I write most days. I send bits of writing to contests often, and last year I poured a sizable chunk of my savings (from teaching) into obtaining a qualification that would declare me a Master of Writing. I’m currently working on finding an agent to represent me in getting my first manuscript published.

But there is no job contract.

And although my certificate declares that I have mastered the skill, this is more of a comment on what I’m capable of, as opposed to an entry pass into the magical theme park of paid writing opportunities.

And there are definitely not any pay slips. (Rough calculation: money made so far from teaching: £100k +. Money made so far from writing: -£10k +).

Perhaps most disheartening of all, there is no building that I can go to in order to be referred to as a writer. The boost in esteem that came with being a teacher (and the positive impact that allows you to make) was, for me, enormous. By contrast, the process of writing stories and submitting them to strangers who – 95 times out of 100 – will ignore or reject them, is the equivalent of shoving your self esteem into a tumble drier full of rocks and rusty nails.

So. If a writer writes and no one is there to appreciate it (or pay them), are they actually a writer?

Well, in my case, yes. Because as of today, I say so.

I didn’t feel the need to get below a certain pace before I started calling myself a runner.

I don’t feel the need to have visited a certain number of countries or to have read a certain number of books before calling myself a traveller or a reader.

I am a writer because I write. Being paid to do it would be nice. Being paid and acclaimed would be even better.

But for now, I am a writer, because I write. And for now, that is enough.

If you’re reading this and you have aspirations of being a writer, I hope you’ll take this as encouragement. If you want to be a writer: just start writing. As often as you can. Every day if possible. The rest – I hope – will follow. 🙂

Emily x

P.S. I have made some little changes to the title and subheading of the site (though the URL hasn’t changed yet) to reflect the fact that – now that I’m a full time PhD student of writing – I’m hoping to start including posts about the process of writing and my attempts to embark upon a career in writing.

The Postcard Project

“People are made of places. They carry with them
hints of jungles or mountains, a tropic grace
or the cool eyes of sea gazers.”

– Elizabeth Brewster

Stop! Listen! This is a call to arts!

Are you a human being? Do you live in a place? Do you have £1 (or equivalent currency) of disposable income? If you answered yes to all of these questions then you are invited to participate in a collaborative arts project and to help to create something beautiful! Getting involved is easy. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Buy a postcard and a stamp (that’s your £1 spent)
  2. Go home and sit on your bed
  3. Write anything you like on the postcard about the place in which you live
  4. Make sure the name of your home is written on the postcard, and your name too (unless you wish to remain anonymous)
  5. Send the postcard to me at the address provided below
  6. Use social media to encourage your friends/colleagues/old acquaintances you haven’t got round to deleting from your friends list yet to participate too
  7. Be a part of a project which connects the map, and collates ideas from all over the world  about what it means to be ‘home’.

That’s it! The only rules are that you write your postcard while sitting on your bed, and that you post it to my address:

23 Manton Crescent,
Beeston,
Nottingham,
England,
UK.
NG9 2GD

Everything else is up to you. You might decide to write a paragraph laden with adjectives to describe your home; you might write a poem; you might just write one word in block capitals. You might write something funny; you might write something beautiful. You might think of your home as being your house, your street, your city or your country. You might write in scratchy black biro; you might write in rainbow felt tips and decorate your postcard with stickers. Whatever you do is up to you, as long as you’re sitting on your bed and thinking about what your home means to you.

So for the love of art, please get postcarding! I’ll share some of the most interesting/beautiful ideas on the blog, unless you’d prefer not to have your postcard shared, in which case let me know.

Thanks in advance for getting involved! Here are some examples I made to help you, if you’re not sure how to get started. Excuse the poorly cropped pictures, but I wanted to make it clear that all of these examples were written on my bed:
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An example of free writing written about my city.

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An example of free verse written about my street.

 

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An example of visual poetry written about my country.

What am I hoping to gain from this project?

My aim with The Postcard Project is to receive a postcard from every country on the planet. Even better, to receive one from every city. I want to cover a wall with postcards from far flung locations, from friends and strangers, which suggest something about what is universal and what is specific about ‘home’.

How will it work?

The only way to begin a project like this is with kind friends willing to devote time (and approx £1 on buying a postcard and a stamp). The only way to take it further is if you are willing to pass the message on. I don’t know anyone who lives in Reykjavik or Ouagadougou, but maybe you do. I only know a limited number of people, but if each of those people convinces one more person to do it, and those people convince one more person to do it, the project will go on and on.

Is it appropriate for me to participate?

YES.

Are you concerned that it’s creepy/weird/awkward for you to send me a postcard because you hardly know me / haven’t spoken to me in years / are a stranger? Please do not be put off by these factors: I hope to receive as many postcards as possible and am hoping that this project will extend from friends to acquaintances to strangers, and vow to never receive a postcard and think ‘ew, why are he/she/they writing to me?’ PLEASE WRITE!

Are you concerned that you are not an artistic/creative/poetic person? Please do not be put off by these factors. First of all, you probably are. Second of all, you do not need to write anything artistic/creative/poetic. All you need to write is something which reflects your home and how you feel about it, and this will inevitably be original and interesting, because it will be about you: even if you try as hard as you possibly can to remove yourself from it and be boring. PLEASE WRITE!

That’s all for now! Please comment below if you have any questions. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Emily x