A storm of writing

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The storms that blew out the old year abate as the year turns and the new year creeps in through a veil of gloom.  The day is sunk in a quagmire of mizzle.  Cormorants line the breakwater like mourning sentinels and the lighthouse beacon struggles to breach the murk.  On the beaches at the mouth of the river, a broken forest has rooted.  Whole trees, enormous logs, pieces of furniture and other oddments swept down-river in the storms have come to rest here.  It isn’t long before the beach-combers arrive, picking through the piles for treasures.

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I’ve been on a journey.  In the dreaming tide of the year, as the world descended into darkness, I dreamed a new world into being.  Sequestered from the golden drift of the leaves and the filigree of stripped branches, the real world receded.  Everywhere I went, I carried a notebook and a pen with turquoise ink, like talismans.  Words spilled out, without thought, without preparation: a storm of words.

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I was visited by an apparition: a teenage me at my aunt’s house in the country, scribbling stories in a blue exercise book about a woman who saw lights in the fields at night.  Back then, I loved writing.  There was no agenda.  I didn’t have a computer.  I wrote everything longhand and didn’t imagine I would ever have something published.  Over time, that naïve joy dissipated as I strove to achieve something with my writing.  As I fulfilled some of my goals, it became less like joy and more like work.  Last year creativity was a battle and my novel in progress was one of its casualties.

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But during my Arvon week at Lumb Bank, something was re-kindled amid hills swathed in mist.  Afterwards, things seemed to shift.    I kept asking myself the questions my tutors Emylia Hall and Patrick Neate asked me: Which part of this book am I enjoying writing the most? Why do I write? How do I want my writing to be viewed?  I was energised by Ray Bradbury’s book Zen in the art of writing, in which his delight in writing is infectious and who told me to write, not think.   I thought of Tash Aw, guest author at Arvon, who said he writes every one of his huge books longhand.  And suddenly, I took up notebook and pen and soared.

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When things got tough, my mantra was this: ‘It’s okay, at this point I’m just telling myself the story.  It doesn’t have to be great, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work, I’m just telling it to me.’  And there was that teenage girl scribbling in her blue notebook, reminding me how writing used to be.  Two months on, I’d finished my first draft of 80,000 words.

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I’ve been on a journey, a journey back to writing, back to the writer I once was.  I found peace in the scratch of ink on paper and joy in the conjuring of a world.  This is the magic of writing.  And as the honing tide sweeps in, it’s time for a little word-combing, sifting through the leavings of the storm until I find the treasures.

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My short story, Lightning Flowers, the tale of a woman whose life changes when she’s struck by lightning, was published in Issue 5 of Firewords Quarterly in October.  You can buy a copy at http://www.firewords.co.uk/shop/issue5/

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118 thoughts on “A storm of writing

  1. Hi Andrea. It’s wonderful to see a post from you at the beginning of this new year. Welcome back! I’m so very pleased that you got in touch with your creativity again.
    Thanks for sharing the “writing questions” — I think they might help me finish my 2014 novel/draft. It took an unexpected turn halfway through, and I just wasn’t okay with it. Maybe those questions will help me resurrect that one and put it back on the right path — If i ever have time to get to it.

    Wishing you a new year filled with creative spirit and energy, wonder, and wild happiness. Happy New Year hugs!

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  2. Congratulations on 80,000 words and for word combing! I can see that your time away has been productive, Andrea. Your renewal shows in this post. May more good things come your way in 2016! (I think I was more productive with pen and paper too. You have inspired me.)

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    • Thank you! It was unexpected but wonderful and the pen and paper made all the difference – no set up needed, just writing whenever I felt like it, there was something less formal than having to boot up the computer and begin. I hope your creativity blossoms this year 🙂

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  3. Andrea doll! What a dynamite blog of emotions and achievements. I must say, you had me at “quagmire” in the intro.

    In all seriousness, I’m so happy for you! I’ve struggled with mixing up writing and work over the past few years. But lately I have really been enjoying it more, releasing expectations and reconnecting with words. Happy New Year, honey!

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  4. Oh Andrea, I’ve been wondering about you and thought of knocking on your door but didn’t want to disturb you if you were writing.
    So thrilled that you have found your flow again. It’s brilliant news. Happy New Year. xx

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  5. Happy New Year, Andrea! My husband is just reading a Tash Aw novel at the moment and I am waiting to borrow it. I am glad writing long hand inspires you, however my handwriting has deteriorated to such an extent that I struggle to read my own shopping list these day!

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    • Happy New Year Wendy! I read Tash’s ‘Five Star Billionaire’, which wasn’t a book I would have been drawn to at all if he wasn’t going to be on my course, but it was very good – a really interesting mix of characters and Shanghai, where it’s set is a character in itself. He was a very inspiring guy, so I do intend to read more of his work.

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  6. How pleased was I to find this post in my reader today! Welcome back Andrea and congratulations on your publication.
    Your teenage self and mine had much in common – I was a great scribbler of stories which were then secreted away. Just for me. A good place to start from. Happy New Year Andrea.

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  7. I love your writing Andrea! I am so glad that you found your way back to your creativity, and through turquoise – the colour of the sea, the colour of Renaissance. Creativity is all about our childhood; that’s why we do it.
    My daughter is having career advice and she was told not to think of her career as a mountain, but as a landscape, which I thought was brilliant.
    I look forward to all your wonderful posts in 2016.

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  8. So good to read you again, Andrea, especially with such good news. I love how you describe your writing journey with its ups and downs, its bumps and perks. Books on writing and creativity in general can help us a lot when we are stuck, confused and discouraged. Reading about great writers’ own challenges is particularly good for me. Ray Bradbury’s book is unknown to me, although I’be read many of his books, so I should probably find it. Bravo again and happy 2016 to you. Looks like the year starts on a good foot.

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  9. Welcome back! 2015 was a tough year for me too, creatively and otherwise. I’m so glad to hear that you found your inspiration again. I suppose all creatives go through those downturns, but when you’re in it, you feel like you can’t possibly continue onward. Lucky for us, we’re well-trained to see ways out of “blocks.” 🙂 Happy 2016!

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  10. So good to have you back. As always, your writing inspires my own. I wish you continued success – if it was easy everyone would be doing it (and all that :-)). Your experience at Lumb Bank has made me wonder if perhaps I should spend some time there. I have so much unfinished writing, and ‘not even started’ writing, and time speeds on…
    Have a productive and positive 2016.

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  11. How wonderful for you to have experienced an uplifting rebirth, Andrea. To let the writing gates open once again and feel the passion dancing is such a delight. I am so happy for you. 🙂

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  12. Woohoo, you’ve had some FABULOUS months!!! I’m so glad you’re back, but I’m also happy you had such a wonderful time finding your way back to your writing. I hope you’ll be blogging regularly! and I hope I can figure out buying a copy of the magazine!

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  13. I have missed you and you’re beautiful writing …this piece is no exception . I’d love to perchase the mag . So glad you are back to the world of writing …sometimes it takes something or someone to give you that little nudge in the right direction .
    Cherryx

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  14. It’s so great to see you back and (re-)energised, Andrea! There was a time when I wrote only in long-hand, too; now, it’s a hybrid.
    FWIW, I feel a lot of calm aplomb emanating, if you will, from this post, too, so you seem well on track to have a great 2016. I can’t wait to read the novel, and congratulations on the short story publication. I’ll have to see about getting one of those magazines; I don’t think I’ve read it ever before [and the cover art looks lovely, too].

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    • Thanks Leigh, it’s a good feeling – I think the longhand will stay for a while and I’ll see where it takes me, I’m hoping that feeling will carry through the year! Firewords is fairly new but it’s nicely produced and illustrated – my illustrator was a guy from NYC who did a lovely illustration for the story.

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      • Firewords does look beautiful, Andrea; that’s so interesting to think of how one’s writing could/can/will be illustrated. I’ve not had much opportunity to think about that since my journalism days. Popshot also has a new theme, adventure, deadline coming up soon as well. I might take a try with them, as I was so impressed that they had published you and I thought, somewhat inflatedly, ‘wow, if I could get published there, that would be so cool to be approaching, in my own way/voice, the high-quality Andrea has in her writing.’ Anyway, very much looking forward to more posts and reading your work offline, too.

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      • It’s quite thrilling to have something illustrated, to think that an artist had to sit down and read my story and conjure up an illustration that fitted it. Popshot was my first experience of that. Firewords has a very similar feel in terms of the quality of the printed version and the way it’s illustrated. Go for the ‘adventure’! Your writing is great Leigh, I think they’d like your unique style, you should definitely submit and I hope I’ll read something of yours in it soon 🙂

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  15. That is a beautiful series of photos ~ the first one really something else, great lighting. A beautiful way to bring in the New Year, the best to you with your writing and photography in the New Year 🙂 Wish you a wonderful year Andrea.

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  16. You’ve been so missed, Andrea, but I’m overjoyed to hear that you’ve reignited your joy of writing and have been so productive. I know all about how writing can seem like too much hard work or, in my case, too much editing and formatting and now the hell of marketing. Perhaps I should go on an Arvon week … if only, I sigh.
    Those cormorants in that picture — so many of them. I jump for joy if I see two or three at any one time down here on the south coast. They’re wonderfully fascinating birds. They remind me a bit of miniaturised but civilised pterodactyls!

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    • Thanks Sarah! And I see you’ve published your book in my absence, but I’ve got my copy so I’m looking forward to reading it – many congratulations!!! That breakwater is a regular hangout for cormorants and it makes a great sight seeing them all lined up there on every plank of wood 🙂

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      • Thank you so much, Andrea, for buying my book and I do hope you enjoy reading it 🙂 I have had a few absences of my own in the last couple of months, due to the whole publishing exercise. When I was writing my speculative fiction novel during 2014, I had this strict rule of starting writing by 10 a.m. from Mondays to Fridays and not allowing myself to go on line until 3.30 p.m. at the earliest each day, except if I needed to quickly research something. Without a measure of self-discipline, it’s nigh-on impossible to see projects through, which is probably why so many people start to write books and never finish them.

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      • I’m sure I’ll enjoy it Sarah. It’s so much easier to write without those distractions, when you know that the only thing you need to do is just get those words down on the page. Congratulations that you saw it all the way to fruition 🙂

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  17. Good to know the writing is going well Andrea. I tried the longhand writing thing but it didn’t do it for me. Love the way you’ve rediscovered the inspiration – I think it comes to each of us in different ways. Happy New Year.

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    • Thanks Roy, Happy New Year to you. Whatever works and right now this is working for me, though before it was always the computer because I could type faster than I write. Seems a little more creative and less work-like when I’m on a computer all day too most of the time.

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  18. I’m so glad that 2015 saw the return of joyful writing for you! I’ve made some progress to that end, but still have some way to go. Congratulations on the publication of the short story and the birth of the new novel. May 2016 continue to bring you joy!

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  19. Andrea, what a wonderful process!! you are indeed a conjuror of visions and dreams !! I will buy!!!
    as to weather I too was deep into the soggy bogs this winter and briefly dreamed a silly little winter tale. So glad you are back!! Happy New Year!!

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  20. Hi Andrea, great to see you again, 80,000 words later – wow! Your break was just what you needed by the sounds of it. To return to the writer you used to be is wonderful, and to discover the flow through long hand too…that is powerful. Congratulations on your recent story publication. I hope this year brings you the writing success your heart desires and that your hard work deserves 🙂

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  21. The picture in your previous post combined with your description in this post and made me want to walk in, shut the door behind me, and with “… a notebook and a pen with turquoise ink, like talismans…” curl up and write into the night. Wonderful, Andrea.

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  22. Welcome back an congratulations on being published as well. That’s great news! Writing longhand does feel more natural, like you are furthering the traditions of old and really communing with act of writing.

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  23. This made me very happy — I certainly relate to getting back in touch with the writer I always was. She wandered off for a while and it was like losing my shadow. It’s good to be whole again, isn’t it? Best of luck making your magic in the new year!

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  24. Andrea, Congratulations on the short story! Like you, there were months last year when I lost my fondness for creative writing. It did get tough.. and I also took a blogging break. I am so pleased that we are both returning here and that you are again finding pleasure in writing. HUGS and all the best to you in this lovely New Year x

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  25. Oh Andrea, I’m so glad you’ve found your writing again and it”s going so well for you. I remember hearing Wayne Dyer once say that that’s the only way he writes is by hand on a yellow notepad. He preferred it because he felt the energy from his heart and mind flow to the notepad through his hand.

    I can see in reading your post how it seems your writing has elevated to another level and is more descriptive and flowing. Looks like you’ve got it going and I couldn’t be more happy for you. 🙂

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  26. Sounds like you went through an amazing awakening/realization about writing. I’ll definitely have to check out Bradbury’s book. Hoping 2016 keeps that teenage girl in you writing. Congrats on having your short story published!

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  27. How I love reading this!!! Inspiring – for all of us who remember ourselves as the young person enveloped in the love of our writing, expecting nothing but the glory of…writing. Congrats on your new inspiration, and your 80,000 words. Exciting. I have a lot of books on writing because I’ve taught creative writing for so many years, but I’ve never read Ray Bradbury’s book – looking for it now.

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  28. Good to have you back! And so glad your teenaged self decided to put in an appearance:). I love the notebook bit–love that the tactile brought you back–and love your success. Congrats!

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  29. I love how the words spilled over, AS. And storm is an apt metaphor because storms are messy, not polished. Writers can easily lose sight over what it was supposed to be about. Fortunately we always make our way back through the storm. =)

    LF looks great. Congrats, my friend.

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  30. Again, Andrea welcome back!! I’m so very happy to hear the retreat did you good and that you got in touch with your creativity again.
    Beautiful beautiful pictures – I like the colour contrast of the lighthouse
    Congratulations on your publication! Is there a way I could purchase this as an e-book or so. I find that hard copies to be send overseas are outrageous in shipping costs.

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    • Thanks Karin! It did me a lot of good, it was well worth that time of withdrawal! I don’t think you can get the current issue of Firewords digitally yet unfortunately – just up to issue 3 and this is issue 5, but I appreciate you wanting to read it 🙂

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  31. Beautiful writing, Andrea. I need to remember Bradbury’s words that encourage the writer to, “write, don’t think…” Congratulations on your published short story.

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  32. Wonderfully inspiring post. And the pictures created a well matched atmosphere. Delightful.
    So happy that you experienced such a rebirth.
    I have wondered if we have traded the inspiration of pen on paper for the convenience of computer editing.
    Looking forward to your continuing creativity. Blessings for the new year.

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    • Thanks Eileen – it is definitely more convenient – I learned to type on a manual typewriter so I can’t imagine what it would be like still having to use that! But there is something different about using pen and paper.

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