SallyP

Retroladytyping …

Writer’s block?

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This is my third attempt in as many days to write something – anything, which is worth the effort of doing so and, more importantly, worth reading.  But I can’t.  I just can’t.  Several compositions have been attempted.   I’ve taken advice to just sit and write, something – anything, but it doesn’t happen.  Actually it does, but it’s just an outpouring of thoughts in no cohesive order,  grammatically ok, but just plain boring …

What has happened?  I used to find it easy to pour my thoughts out via a keyboard.  It was my way of ordering confusion in an increasingly confused world.  I used to wake in the wee small hours full of ideas and find it easy then, with no distractions, to translate those thoughts into some sort of writing.  No more.  When I wake up in the wee small hours now, I just want to go back to sleep.  My brain switches off.

So much has happened lately:  the terrorist attack in Westminster being the latest.  A few months ago I would have had thoughts and opinions, which I would have written about.  I tried.  I tried several times.  I read other, professional writers, thoughts and opinions.  There were many of those yesterday.  Some I agree with; some I didn’t.  None penetrated my brain enough to produce anything of my own.

A friend, and fellow blogger, yesterday wrote a piece which contained the word ‘happenstance’.  I love that word.  That’s it, I thought.  I’ll write about that word, why I like it, with some examples.  I even woke in the wee small hours thinking of it.  Yes, it’s happened.  I can write again!  Job done.  It didn’t happen.  Well, it did, but it was just a lot of waffle.  Not worth the effort and certainly not worth reading.

This used to be easy.  Any thoughts?  Anyone else experienced this?  Will it go?  Should I keep trying and become increasingly frustrated?  Should I give up, realise I overstretched myself thinking I could do writing thing?  Or what?

 

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My biro has run out of ink …

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I started this blogging lark, on a whim, just over a year ago, following the example of a friend who lives to write  (at midnight, as all the best writers do).  I’m not sure why I did, other than sometimes it helps to clarify my thoughts by writing (ok, typing) them into some sort of organised, hopefully coherent, order.

However, over the last few weeks, probably months, my metaphorical biro has run out of ink.  I can’t think what to write, how to write it in any case, and most importantly – why to write.  Some of my posts had hundreds (yes, really) of views, some had just a few, but I could guess who those viewers were and they were much valued.  In turn I started following several other bloggers, some of whom I knew, some I didn’t; some have fallen by the wayside;  some favourites I have commented on, always appreciatively, but lately those comments have been deleted, or, to use the word which WordPress use,  trashed.      I never do that, unless comments are offensive, which has only happened once, but some people, apparently, do delete my comments or dismiss them as Spam.  There you go, in the bin.  Spam.   Trash.  To be forgotten.  Pity there was no feedback.

Anyway, to return to the main point, my biro has run out.  Ideas have dried up.  I really don’t know why.  Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the lack of light (the Winter solstice is very soon, so there’s hope on the horizon); maybe nothing much has happened.  Scratch that last thought, maybe it’s because so much has happened.  2016 has been a year to remember, a turning point in the world’s history perhaps.  Is that why I can’t think of anything; there are too many things?

In my own life, everyday stuff keeps on keeping on.  I have written about those, but am now struggling  to relate them in a way which others who are not familiar with my life might find worth reading.   My life is pretty ordinary really; my thoughts are those which others have, but don’t feel the need to describe while sitting in front of a laptop.  I felt that need.  I don’t now.  My biro is empty.  It was only a cheapie from a multi-pack, but even so, it was my biro and I shall miss it.

One more thought:  maybe I need one of those multi-coloured jobs, which I have always wanted, but never had, along with a mini-Cadbury chocolate bar machine.  Not long till Christmas … just saying …

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The inspirational Mr Neate

my-english-teacherBack in the days of ‘O’ levels, my English teacher was a very unusual (for those days) teacher.  He was a teacher of the old school, complete with cap and gown, in an era of freedom of expression, freedom of thought and when conforming meant not conforming i.e. the 1960s.

Mr Neate wore a cap and gown when other teachers were wearing scuffed suede shoes, brown corduroy jackets and jeans.  He was always dressed in a dark suit, with worn through elbows and chalk dust on the lapels.  His shoes were always extremely black, extremely polished and extremely tip-tappy. He swept into assembly every morning like a short, round bat – sleeves flapping, shoes tapping,  as he marched through groups of students who were asserting their individuality by all looking the same – rolled over skirts, luminous socks, the whole 1960s look – and this was in a Grammar school, where our skirts were measured for length weekly by the Senior Mistress.

More important than his appearance, however, is that Mr Neate was a truly inspirational teacher.  He ruled by his short, round presence.  When he entered the classroom, silence reigned.  He rarely shouted.  When he did, it was because a pupil wasn’t venturing an opinion.  Whether we were discussing Keates, Chaucer, Maugham or, my personal love, Coleridge,  Mr Neate really, really loved a good argument.  His only proviso was that opinions had to be backed by evidence.  Not for him any woolly-minded ‘because I think so’ discussions.  We needed evidence; even if in his view, our opinions were misinformed.

I often took issue with him about our favourite poets:  I loved then, and still do, Kubla Khan by Coleridge.  In his view it was a drug-fuelled rambling dirge.  I disagreed, quoting lines such as “Through caverns measureless to man down to a sunless sea” to back my opinion.  He disagreed, quoting what I thought then was over romantic slush from Wordsworth.  I still think he was wrong.  Kubla Khan is sublime.  He preferred Wordsworth.   I disagreed again,  pointing out that Wordsworth knew Coleridge and joined him in his drug-fuelled ramblings on the Quantock Hills.  I think I win that one.  Who wants daffodils when you can have a cavern leading to a sunless sea?  Not me.

On some topics we did agree.  He loved Chaucer.  I loved Chaucer and still do.  The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is always a good read, funny, challenging and bawdy.  What else, apart from a little drug-fuelled rambling, can a reader want.  Suspense?

There’s plenty of that in Shakespeare, but that was where Mr Neate failed.  Those were the days of ‘O’ levels and we were in an academic environment.  Instructions  from the Headmaster meant he had to be seen to teach to the curriculum and Shakespeare was on that curriculum.  He had to provide proof that we had studied it ‘properly’, rather than spending whole lessons arguing having a reasoned debate. Hence, it was taught by reading around the class in turn, then answering past exam questions.  Killed it, stone dead, for me.

That is until I had the good fortune to meet another inspirational teacher, as an adult, and to be able to work with him.  He teaches in the same inspirational way as Mr Neate.  He encourages argument and debate, as long as it is backed by evidence.  I  argue with him, often, just as I did with Mr Neate.  I hope most of my arguments are backed by evidence; I hope they encourage the students to realise that there is no correct opinion in English  literature teaching and learning, as long as it conforms to that prescribed acronym beloved by AQA examiners, PEE – Point, Evidence, Explanation.

Teachers have to conform; they need their jobs.  However, sometimes it’s desirable to stray from the script to encourage creativity, love of literature for its own sake.  Forget the exams (just for a while), forget targets, forget homework, just enjoy words.  My friend, as he now is, does deviate from the script, but he encourages and nourishes a love of words, admiration for the different ways they can be put together to arouse emotions and the fact that English Lit lessons can be fun and, more importantly, they make you think.

He also awoke in me a renewed interest in Shakespeare, so undoing any damage caused unwittingly by ‘O’ level teaching.   That is no bad thing.

Mr Neate was different from the conventional 1960s teacher, who thought they were pushing the boundaries.  He was truly pushing the boundaries, dressing as he wanted, not as  the other  trend-setting teachers did.  He set his own trends, taught in his own way and inspired in me  a love of the written and spoken word, albeit killing Shakespeare through no fault of his own.   My friend does the same, doesn’t always conform to the prescribed structure, but his students enjoy that; they think and are encouraged to express those thoughts, as long as they conform to the  PEE structure, of course.  Not everything can be jettisoned in the days of SATS, 5* GCSEs (including English, of course) and league tables – unfortunately.

Mr Neate ignited my love of all things word related.  My contemporary friend fanned the flames.  Thank you, both of you.

 

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What, when, why?

 

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I started this blogging lark on a whim a couple of months ago because it has been said that I am good with words.  That might mean I talk a lot or it might mean I am, to quote one of my cousins, eloquent.  I like the sound of that.   Two friends write very eloquently; one mostly on one topic; the other on whatever strikes him on the day, which is more or less how I have proceeded.  That’s the problem though …

I am not and never will be a ‘writer’.  I write, that’s all.  Being a writer implies skill.  I don’t use skill:  I just think and type.

I googled ‘How to write a blog’ and wish I hadn’t.   The general idea seems to be to stick to one topic and write every day.  EVERY DAY!  What?  I don’t have enough words to write every day.  Would anyone want to read my musings every day in any event?  Having said that, according to my WordPress statistics, one person read one post 19 times!!  Maybe they had a lot of interruptions …

I have interests, things I care about – dementia and the effects on everyone involved, music, family, nature, gardening, knitting,  – all important to me.  I also have a mind like a kaleidoscope – there are lots of small pieces, but none shout to be a single topic.

What to do?

One topic or random mutterings about this and that as the mood takes me?  How often?  And what about poetry? Another cousin writes beautiful poems and publishes them on WordPress.  No, I don’t think I can do that.  Definitely sticking with prose.  I couldn’t assemble my randomness into a poem, but how often to commit that randomness to an ordered assembly of words which others may read and which hopefully make some sort of sense?

Every day is probably too much, whatever that website says.  At present I am  writing when I feel motivated  – the last post was triggered by an email from the Alzheimer’s Society about a video by  Christopher Eccleston (who I have a bit of a crush on) talking about dementia, produced by Aardman animations (I also have a bit of a crush on Gromit – sorry), so it cried out to be the subject of some writing.  Some topics come to me unprompted in quiet moments – Alchemy was one of those and it just grew as I typed.  See what I mean – random mutterings.

What do any other bloggers think?  Is it something to be done seriously, in a professional manner, every day on one topic or as and when on random topics?    If anyone would like to read  and comment, that is very rewarding especially if they choose to share it, but I enjoy the process in itself.  Is that why others blog, or something more?  Maybe I should buy a book on How to Blog; they do exist; I just googled it … oh dear ….  Maybe I do need to be a ‘writer.’

 

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