Go on. Try it.
Maybe start with a word. The most lovely word. Your favourite, in fact.
Describe its colours. Describe its sound. Tell us about the music it forms in your mind.
Set that paragraph into a context. A scene. A moment. A memory.
Put someone in that context. Maybe you, maybe not-you. Maybe not a person at all.
What do they do? Do they paint those palettes you created? Do they sing the music you wrote? Does their voice sound like that word? Do they reverberate with the same frequency?
What emotions do they have? Are they that of your word, or are they reactionary? What are their thoughts? Do they share your love of your word?
Think about the world they live in, a world of your word. In an instantaneous moment, it sprang forth from a seed that you cultivated. Are you not a god in this act of creation?
You have created from nothing, in defiance of all the known laws of the universe.
How mighty you are, how powerful and wise.
Carry this knowledge of your strength, your wisdom, and your vision, in a special place within you.
Draw upon it in your hour of need, and nurture it in your times of triumph. Keep it hidden, but easily accessed. The world you inhabit fears the dark, but it fears the light even more. We praise it in its absence but seek in terror to snuff it out in its presence.
Guard your light. Guard your nugget of truth. So that you can share of it with the world, linking it up to all your infinities.
“Annie! Annie, are you up yet? I’m taking the kids to school!”
Avery’s voice carries well throughout the house and reminds me of home. I’m awake, but have yet to rise. I have to now.
First stop is the bathroom. I see to Mother Nature’s necessities and then my own. In the mirror, a woman with average length hair in a boring colour stared back. Her eyes peer passively back at me, and her flawless skin doesn’t reveal her age.
As I brush my hair and apply just enough makeup, I wonder if thinking of myself in the third person is normal. It’s not important, unlike breakfast, which Avery’s prepared for me.
I have enough time to say goodbye to my family. My two children, Summer and Jim, are good kids. They’re well liked, and rarely spoken of. Sure, they could be smarter, or more attractive, but they’re solid B students and that’s what really matters.
My stalwart husband, Avery, is as average as his children. He tries to stay in shape but it’s hard to fit it all in, between helping me with the kids, church responsibilities, and his job as an accountant. He has a car in the garage that doesn’t run but he swears it will one day.
As for me, as far as most people are concerned I’m a meek, boring housewife. But it makes for a good cover as the neighbourhood’s number one option for the dirt on Mr. Next Door. That’s right, I’m Mrs. Body, the person behind the Busy Body Private Detective Services.
Change is constant
This is all we know
I’m a spring singer
a summer sojourner
in autumn, an artist
and a winter writer
Live in an instant
Just go with the flow
I’m always uncomfortable
because I’m always changing
my identity’s portable
we’re not in the business of prearranging
Staying the course is nonsense
Burn down the status quo
Are you a shark, a crocodile, maybe a tardigrade?
No, and that’s why you have to progress
I’ve never sat still, I’ve always strayed
No delivery, just carry out, when you order success
Change is constant
You know which way to go.
Baby girl please don’t age; you’re so pretty
Pretend you’re a ballerina
But be nicer to Tina
One day you’ll travel the planet
Make a wish; the candles are lit
But don’t rip your new dress
Only a good girl can be a princess
The world is your pearl
You should dress like a girl
Don’t get mud on your knees
Wear a crown of daisies
Dance beside the campfire
But don’t arouse his desire
Don’t you want him to like you?
Stop reading; there’s no time to
Life’s too short to care about grades
We’re gonna hit the raves
Grow your hair out long
Put your lipstick on
Hell yeah, six inch heels
You’ll be hell on wheels
But no, not like that
You look like you’ve got the clap
Less like a used up city tramp
More like the girl from summer camp
Might as well, you’re getting old
Now no one minds your belly roll
Wear clashing colours
Go outside in your rollers
Hit on men you pass in the street
They’re no threat when you’re no treat
Cause you know life is short
Get drunk in Miami airport
You’re free now, we’re moving on to your child
Live as wide as a country mile
Learn from my mistakes
Don’t listen to those ‘girl power’ fakes
Don’t accept ‘boys will be boys’
You can play with army toys
Get dirty, be loud, fill your own space
I was given a small taste
They want you in a cage, but it doesn’t have to be.
bushy, sepa r ated
rollin’, no foldin’
wax my middle finger
can’t thumb a ride
left over right
brush the back of my hand
only need two tendons
I did it. Part of me probably knew it was coming, but I still didn’t see it coming. I hit The Wall.
It started as a headache on Friday after an evening out with people from work. So that nixed Friday’s writing. Saturday I still had the headache. And now we’re at Sunday and I’m struggling to reclaim that momentum I built up over the previous week.
I’m currently sitting at 13126 words, and by Day 9 I should be on 14516. 1390 words to go. I’m struggling to make it to 750.
What have I been relying on to maintain any sort of a habit?
1. The Extreme Harry Potter Word Crawls
This is the number one tool in my kit. Any time I’ve really seriously dedicated myself to writing, it’s been with this. You can find it here (requires a log in to NaNoWriMo’s website) and I highly recommend it. It makes things fun, and gives you small, achievable goals. Things like ‘write 250 words’ or ‘write for five minutes’. And it follows everyone’s favourite wizard! There’s even stuff for multiplayer (the ‘word wars’). What’s not to like?
2. 750 Words
We’ve all heard about the morning pages. For those who somehow are writers but haven’t ever googled ‘how to be a writer’, the morning pages are a recommended prescription for a busy brain. You write (by hand, if possible) at least three pages of whatever comes to mind.
This website allows you to write that, and provides some nice analytics tools as well as badges to incentivise maintaining writing streaks. It’s pretty addictive, especially if you’re like me and metrics are your kink. They can tell you how long you spent writing, what you accomplished while you were doing it, tone, POV, and most commonly used words.
3. Accountability Buddies
Guilt and embarrassment are probably the biggest motivators in human history, outside of the usual (carnal) suspects. So I decided to load up on those.
I post about it as close to daily as possible on my Twitter and Facebook, to keep me accountable to both my close friends and family as well as the stellar writing community on Twitter. I also exchange emails with a friend who is studying for a license exam and we check in on each other that way. Lastly, I’ve instructed a colleague (and friend!) to bung sweets across the divider between our desks if I’m able to provide proof of progress to her each morning. I’m grateful for the support. (P.S. The aforementioned colleague is a talented artist! You can find her here.)
4. Heavy Pre-Planning
I’ll return once more to the tropes littering every website that touches on the topic of writing: pantsers vs. plotters.
I fall heavily into the realm of plotters. Some people don’t need to do this, and they write beautiful organic stories and everything’s neatly filed away in their brains. I am not one of those people. I take plotting to its cold, functional extreme. I used the worksheets on Annie Neugebauer’s website, which you can find here.
They’ve totally become my crutch, because once I find something I like that produces even mediocre results out of my usual sludge, dammit I’m going to use it until it’s unhealthy.
I go through highs and lows with my mood, and with it my productivity and creativity peaks and troughs as well. If I’m not careful, one day I’m going to end up with a diagnosis. But the important point is that I go through periods where I do a ton of research on boosting productivity and tracking goals and building habits. This leads to a flurry of apps to go with it and notebooks that are painstakingly designed and will most assuredly sit empty (RIP bullet journals).
The latest success story from one of these is Habitica. It’s a basic sort of RPG where you grind by completing tasks and goals IRL. You can set daily tasks, habits, and long term projects/goals, and even break these down into their individual component actions. There are pets, and quests, and equipment for your avatar, so the appeal is fairly obvious for most, as are the addictive elements. I’ll have to check back in with a later post about the long term results of Habitica, but so far, so good. It’s kept me on track with Camp NaNo, as well as the myriad other things I’m attempting.
So that’s what I’m using to try and tackle this behemoth of a project. What have you found useful in keeping the words flowing, come what may?
Another day, another rebranding. This one is sticking though, cause there’s a paid-for URL to go with it.
We’re L’Oiseau de Feu now! Whoo!
I decided I wanted an umbrella brand to do everything under. And a less common wording for Firebird became the brand, because I’m learning to give myself second chances.
I’ve been thinking for some time about The Side Hustle™ and decided that it would all fall under the L’Oiseau de Feu banner. So you’re hopefully going to start seeing more content here, more regularly.
I have ideas lined up for content, including a regular feature, and a revival of my Undead Darlings idea…possibly with a new name, due to the fact that there’s apparently a video game in development using the same name. I’m accepting replacement ideas.
One of the regular things I hope to start including is a monthly update of what I’ve been up to that month. Things like word counts, samples of photography, and activity online and off.
So far, I’ve left a really toxic job for a really lovely one. I didn’t realise how bad it had gotten, until I made it to this second job and started looking around at my situation. I’d dropped off the radar entirely, across all my social media and this site. I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t doing much of anything. I was desperately trying to figure out how to kill my desire to keep pursuing creative outlets and consign myself to clocking in, wedging into an uncomfortably small box, clocking out, going home, watching tv, and going to bed to start it all over again and being okay with that.
It didn’t work, and I’m so glad it didn’t. I couldn’t snuff out the flame.
So now here I am, working on rebuilding my headspace and waiting to see the results of that. I’ve been writing poems, and flash fiction, and dipping my toes back into participating in writing tags on Twitter. I’ve also started writing a new WIP, working title is Bootstraps. I’m also taking more photos, building my skill set there, and enjoying seeing the fruits of my labours.
My goals this month include outlining all my currently open WIPs, so that I can write on them more easily, having pre-planned the routes of each of them. If I feel like writing sci-fi, I can pick up the map for CASI and pick up where I want to. Same for the dozens of others I have lined up. I’d also like to hit ten thousand words written this month.
Watch this space!
I’m a firm believer in the “going to work” school of thought when it comes to writing…or for that matter, any home based work. The gist is that you have a dedicated space which is only for work, and thus when you go to this area your brain gets into ‘work mode’. This is why I never write on my desktop PC. I can’t. My desktop is a Fallout Machine. That’s the place where I waste eight hours building a replica of my house in Minecraft. I’ve tried producing writing there. It doesn’t work.
The amazing, Atlanta-based writing group 10 Days Before… did not introduce me to the idea of commuting to write, but it did show me what I could do in the ‘write’ atmosphere. My highest ever word count was 2200 words in an hour, and that was achieved at one of 10DB’s write in events. It sold me on the concept of hunting out places to go to write.
So off to Google I go, trying every search term combination I can think of to try and find reviews of local watering holes written from a creative point of view. Which places have power outlets? Which have just the right amount of background noise? Which are too loud to hear yourself think? Where’s the wifi? Who’s been to these places and tried to write there?
I found the results sadly lacking. Outside of New York City and London, no one seems to have compiled any sort of ‘best places to write in X’ type pages. So this is what I’m going to set out to do here. I’m going to go to random places in the Itchen Valley area–specifically Winchester, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, and Southampton–and write there for a few hours to try and get an idea of what it’s like to be there as a writer and how the place functions as a creative space.
My first stop is a well known landmark in Southampton’s cultural scene…
The Art House. An eclectic cafe on a Mission from God™ and fighting the good fight. From their website:
We are a not-for-profit, Community Interest Company, a gallery, arts venue and cafe which has been running since January 2008 in Southampton, UK. The Art House was founded by the four directors, Bik, Jani, Ziggy and Nina and is staffed mainly by volunteers. We have three main aims:
– To promote the Arts.
– To enhance our local and global community.
– To encourage positive, healthy & sustainable living.
I can’t recommend this place enough. It’s an interesting atmosphere, full of bright colours, local artwork and crafts, and the occasional Doodle Book lying about. They also offer low key music, not too loud, and are just busy enough during the day that you can get some stimuli without being overwhelmed. They also offer free wifi, and a quiet space during the day, which demonstrates a commitment to giving people a creative space.
A taste of the decor, and a Doodle Book!
They stay busy, playing host to local musicians, a storytelling group, and even the local Makers scene. What this means for us hermity writer types is the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in so many different scenarios and soak up information on a broad range of topics. Maybe even discover a new hobby?
The staff are friendly and welcoming, as well as largely volunteer-based. They’re happy to help newcomers and lone travellers settle in, and the place is a magnet for solo questers. It strikes me as a venue which strives to be a safe place for everyone.
The food is very good, and almost entirely vegan, with many gluten free options. I had
some nachos while I was there, and an England’s own brand of cola, Fentimans. The prices are on par with a restaurant in the city centre, believe my nachos were around £5-6, total was around £8.
They also offer a lower cost option in their Magic Hat Tea Bar. This is a self-serve, by donation alternative to expensive drinks out. It’s part of their belief that public spaces are vital to mental and emotional wellbeing, and the lifeline this can give to those who are struggling financially…as a lot of writers and other artistic types are.
“Wow! I’m super stoked to go support this amazing business!” You chirp, eyes large with optimism. “Where is this magical place?”
Ah, well, it’s conveniently located in Southampton’s city centre. They’re on Above Bar Street, close to the Guild Hall. Easily accessed by rail or bus, though parking a car nearby can be an endeavour unto itself. As a nondriver myself, I can’t comment on this aspect, but I hear tell it’s a beast.
Opening time information, pulled from their website:
Tuesday 11am – 10pm
Wednesday 11am – 10pm
Thursday 11am – 10pm
Friday 11am – 10pm
Saturday 11am – 10pm
Sunday 12 – 5pm.
Lunch is served 12 – 4pm and supper is available 6 – 9pm
So what’re you waiting for?! Get out there and absorb some of the local flavour!
What’re your thoughts on writing in the field?
Do you have a venue to suggest for this project?
Let me know!
[I realised that the play I saw a few weeks back would make great review-writing practice, hence the delay between viewing and posting.]
Four lucky writers had the chance to see their concepts workshopped into brief plays in Telling Tales, the collection of vignettes put on by a fantastic cast at The Berry Theatre in Hedge End. It was a one-off show displaying the results of a month of hard work on the parts of writers, techs, and actors. It was the culmination of a contest to invent new fairy tales for a modern world.
The directors heading up the production were Lewis Mullins, Lily Coull, and Daniel Hill. Music was arranged by David Lewington, Holly Scott was the production assistant, and Shaun Hobbs and Jack Anderson served as technicians.
Nine talented young actors brought the writers’ characters to life, often wearing multiple hats as the play transitioned from one vignette to the next. The intended audience was supposed to be children, but I saw no reason why that couldn’t be interpreted as kids from ages one to one hundred!
The set design was wonderfully simplistic and whimsical. Its roughshod, carefully strewn chaos filled the stage without filling it, calling to mind the more minimalist spreads of Marzolo and Wick’s I Spy picture book series. The main colour scheme was very cool, teals and greens, and there were books supplied by Oxfam hanging from above, giving the appearance of them floating. Towards the wings were piles of crumpled up pages and stacks of books and other miscellaneous debris. I felt this really spoke to the trial-and-error process of writing.
The opening scene is a delight, immediately captivating the audience. It is a flurry of motion as the actors flitted around, grabbing books and leafing through them before showing them to their colleagues. It was a perfection introduction, as it embodied every time I got excited about a book and couldn’t wait to talk to my friends about it. The way they captured the passion of reading in such a simple, easy to first fashion was remarkable.
I also have to give props to the tech team for including Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” in the play’s soundtrack. I have such a soft spot in my heart for that song and it’s one of those that can instantly brighten any mood my brain can throw at it.
The literature handed out before the show was simple but effective, and included one essential tool for getting through the lull before the show and the car ride home: a cootie catcher!
A what? Well, some people might know them as Fortune Tellers, or even just that thing from that one episode of South Park…
Yeah. That one.
But I grew up hearing them called cootie catchers because kids are as weird as they are expensive. And the program came with one! It was themed, with symbols and snippets from the different stories being told. A great way for kids to remember what they saw and to give them a fun souvenir as well!
This was in addition to a page with the crew credits and a blurb about each story and its author.
Speaking of the individual stories…it’s about time we got to the meat and potatoes of the play!
Draco the Dragon
In this short story based on a game the author used to play with her children, a young girl tries to hide a dragon that eats colours in her room.
It is a dialogue-lite piece that very effectively uses the simplistic set design and benefits from the very enthusiastic and animated performances of the cast. The concept is fresh and original and would translate into a wonderful picture or colouring book to teach children about different colours.
Memorable line: “I will miss you, despite all your chaos.”
Processes Of Life
In the next piece, a scientist builds a robot designed to count all life in the world, and is then sent out to perform its task. The robot meets an eclectic variety of characters, such as an ornery frog, a volcano, and a fussy hen.
The dialogue is very witty and engaging, and as this was performed two days after the EU referendum, was eerily relevant in revealing the scientist had run out of funding due to a sudden financial crisis.
This piece teaches some very valuable lessons about challenging assumptions and putting people into boxes based on a limited understanding of their existence. A fantastic way to approach dialogues with children about bigotry they may encounter in the world.
Memorable line: “We both breathe air!” “That would make us breath-ren, right?”
Little Ava and the Spider
This story shows a young girl who tries to stay up all night to watch the stars. She believes this will keep them from disappearing with the dawn. A spider in her room tells her stories to make her sleepy.
Ultimately, we come to realise this need to ensure the stars don’t leave is her way of grieving, as she is told by the spider that everything needs an end. It is a story of accepting the loss of death, and whilst materials to help children and their parents grapple with such a hefty issue are greatly needed, it became an awful lot to unpack in the course of a fifteen minute mini-play.
Memorable Line: “I’m going to watch the stars to make sure they don’t go away.”
The Door To Nowhere
The finale to Telling Tales was about a young girl living with her aunt. She discovers a secret door, and when she confronts her aunt about it, her aunt reveals the key, which was a gift from her parents. She goes through the door, and finds herself in an altogether different world that she must navigate.
The second half, after she passes through the door, was visually stunning, and given the prep time and budget involved pulled off some truly astounding effects. It also gave us a strong, female protagonist and good dialogue starters about gender roles. On the down side, the music volume was occasionally too loud to actually hear the dialogue, which could have been a particular problem for young children, whose hearing is generally more sensitive.
Memorable Line:”What kind of princess fights pirates?”
Overall, I felt that this was a wonderful afternoon’s entertainment for children of all ages(including those that have children of their own!), and brilliantly executed. The addition of the fortune teller supplement to keep fidgety hands busy gives attendees a souvenir to keep the stories fresh in their minds and serve as a momento. I would highly recommend seeing it, except for the fact that it was a one-time showing!