D is For DIARY…‘Keep a diary..’ so the saying goes, ‘and one day the diary will keep you.’ Hmm, if you’re Posh Spice, maybe or Sepp Blatter. It’s a nice idea but I’m not sure that anyone’s really going to want to read my life story.. !
6th June 1975: Today at school we had a referendum in our class. 31 children voted ‘yes’ and 4 voted ‘no’. The conclusion of the real referendum is to stay in the Common Market. (Ooh, get me with my politics. I’m sure I didn’t have a clue about any of that but it makes me sounds like a future Kirsty Wark, doesn’t it?).
But then it gets decidedly more mundane…
6th June 1983 Walking with Bernie past the bus stop, she dropped a bottle of ink, which smashed everywhere! How embarrassing.
6th June 1997: Dropped a can on my foot this morning. Really hurt! Thought I’d broken my toe or something.
6th June 2002: Didn’t leave work until 6.30pm. Another boring meeting.
See what I mean?
I kept a diary from the age of 12 until I was in my mid thirties, when I just suddenly lost interest in writing down all the trials and tribulations of the jobs that I hated with a passion and useless men! But it’s fun to look back on them, particularly when I write about things and people (Bernie?! Who was she?) of which I have absolutely no recollection now!
I don’t keep a diary any more but I do write my morning pages, which is a similar kind of thing.
And if you’re interested in reading a dog diary and comparing it to a cat diary.. (we did this in my class) have a look here.
It certainly made us smile.
E is for EMOTION.
If you write stories for the women’s magazines, they do like a good dollop of emotion but, to be honest, I think it’s pretty important in most writing.
I encourage my students to practice ‘writing from the heart’ by writing ‘a letter to‘ (‘the letter you always wanted to write’), just like those they publish each Saturday in The Guardian.
Now don’t laugh at this, but when I’ve written a story that I want my chap to critique (he’s getting quite good at it!), I either read it out to him or I start to tell him about it and if my voice cracks or I start to cry (!) then we both start laughing because we know that means it’s a ‘good ‘un’!
F is for FAILURE.
Eek, that’s not a word we writers like to bandy about, is it? But I’ve just watched J K Rowling‘s Commencement Address to Harvard in 2008 and it’s a subject she tackles. Ultimately, she says, we have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure and she makes a pretty good case for how failure can actually do you a lot of good.
Some people never send their work out because they’re frightened of rejection (or ‘failure’ as they see it) but as JK says, you can’t possibly go through life without failing. Rejection, or failing, is part of the process of becoming a writer.
I’m better at rejections now. I don’t take them quite so personally as I used to because I’ve had lots and lots of them now and my skin’s got tougher!