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Love is…

Since today is Valentine’s day, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about love.

Love is:

-Singing to the stars and hearing them sing back.

-Attempting to pirouette on a tightrope.

-Savouring time instead of spending it.

-Wrenching your heart out of your throat, coughing it into your hands – a pulsing, bloody mango – then shredding it against a cheese-grater.

-Realising your shadow resides in another person. And your light.

-Skidding down a slope of laughter.

-Letting someone see you splinter and fray.

-Feeling butter-soaked in warmth.

-Stumbling, falling, getting up again.

-Who the hell knows?


Please comment and share what love is to you!

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How To Write Ugly

Some writing aches with beauty and makes you feel like another person has distilled a truth of the universe that part of you had always known, but never fully articulated.

Some writing causes you to reflect and discover new aspects of yourself: the true soul of your soul.

Stories may awaken a sense of nostalgia in you, and leave you to ponder life and all of its impossible possibilities. Things that were once options but no longer are. Some writing reads like a half-sketched map of adventures not taken. Characters may live out a thousand versions of your life, had you chosen differently, or motivate you to reconsider your choices now.

Stories can be empowering, awe-inspiring, life-changing. I truly believe that.

And some writing is ugly. Some is supposed to be. Because writing reflects the human experience, and humans inevitably experience pain, misery and suffering. (This blog is not supposed to be a major downer, by the way, I’m just getting real here.) The other stuff is real, too. Absolutely. Love, joy, kindness and hope exist. Love is what makes living worthwhile. There are glorious moments where you realise that another person in this vast and too small universe understands the same thing you do; where kindness prevails, and magic shines in the everyday. We can’t lose sight of all the good, but failing to represent the grime of life in narrative form would be a mistake.

Which brings me back to writing ugly. I once told a writer friend that his story was too eloquent. ‘What’s wrong with it?’ he asked. I told him that he’d used a beautiful style for a moment that wasn’t beautiful. And there is a place for prose like Henry James’, but I thought this particular scene deserved raw emotion. My advice was to stop trying as hard and let the action play out. If a scene is brutal, then make me feel whiplashed. Use the language your story demands. Use words like ‘crush’, ‘ooze’, ‘smash’ and ‘grit’. Experiment with choppy sentences, blunt sounds. Subtlety can be wonderful, but certain situations call for a sledgehammering. So, bash me over the head with words. Try not to get caught up in the kind of writing that will make you feel consumed by a fatalistic view of the world, but give me something authentic. Characters are allowed to panic, to get scared or angry, and emotionally and physically beaten up. All of that’s okay, but it is nice to watch them fight, and will them to succeed, and to cheer when they do.

So, if you wanna give it a go, write ugly. It’ll make the light in your stories shine brighter.

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The Perfect Place To Write

You know how people talk about the ideal place to write? As though inspiration will surely hit if you sit atop a tranquil mountain, away from the pull of home and work, listening only to your characters’ voices and the gentle breeze?

Well, it doesn’t work like that. Not for me, anyway.

This morning I got up early(ish) and climbed a mountain with my sister and some friends. Well, I say ‘climbed’…there was some steep walking in places. Our conquest for the day was technically a mountain, but it’s more like a big hill. Anyway, standing at the summit(?) offered me a pretty view, but not a drop of inspiration. In Stephen King’s book On Writing, he describes routine as paramount to making progress with a story, and I’ve found this to be true with my own work. Inspiration is more likely to wash over me when I’m sitting in my usual spot at my computer than when I’m in a new setting, however beautiful it is. In fact, sometimes I find it’s best to get some writing done in a familiarly dull location. If I’m bored by my environment then I will want to be transported, and my mind will search for ways to breathe colour and magic into a story.

So, if you’re wondering about where to write, maybe look for a place that isn’t too stimulating. But don’t become a hermit, either. Experiences of all sorts can factor into your stories, and give you details to make them vivid. I guess I’m really talking about timing. While I’m on a mountain: zero inspiration. But who knows? Now I’m trapped in my room – and waiting for inspiration to come – maybe my ideas will be influenced by some echo from this morning’s adventure. The cursor in my Word document blinks at me. Time to spill out some words. Wish me luck!