All posts tagged: The Writer’s Portable Mentor

Making friends with reality

In a way, work is like a love affair. It demands commitment, absorption, and care. The difference is that it is a love affair with oneself, or at least with one’s creative abilities, and with an abstract world of ideas. Learning to Work, Virginia Valian People have a conception, however implicit and unarticulated, of who they ‘really’ are, which I am calling true self and others may call identity […] Some people […] cannot point to a period in their lives in which they were able to act in accord with their true selves. Such people may thus have particular difficulty in trusting their perceptions of their true selves. They impugn their motivation, for example, by thinking, “if it’s so hard for me I must not want to do it.” […] My claim is that people are not wrong about their true selves. A related claim is that to encourage someone to doubt his or her true self is to do them the gravest psychological disservice.Solving a Work Problem, Virginia Valian In planning each weekly …

Dear Sarah

This week I made my first submission. This week I also received my first rejection. It snuck into my inbox while I was upstairs bathing children. Recently, I’ve been thinking about my working life. A succession of jobs that involved writing in one form or another, but didn’t involve my name. I’ve worked for an MP and ghostwritten articles & speeches. I’ve worked for an organisation where everything I wrote reflected the views of its eminent Fellows and was phrased in the first person plural. I’ve worked in a Government department where my words and phrases were put into the mouths of Ministers and printed in glossy policy documents, but my own name was invisible. In all these places (with the exception of the MP), there have been layers of sign-off; a hierarchy of people modifying or agreeing with my words and approving their release into the world. And, for the most part, I found that frustrating. But now, I also think that these were the jobs I chose. The places I felt comfortable. The …

Following the light

From painting I learned something else of infinite value to me. Most young poets have bad working habits. They write their poems in fits and starts, by feast or famine. But painters follow the light. They wait for it and do their work by it. They combine artisan practicality with vision. In a house with small children, with no time to waste, I gradually reformed my working habits. I learned that if I could not write a poem, I could make an image, and if I could not make an image, I could take out a word, savor it and store it. From Eavan Boland’s essay “The Woman Poet: her dilemma” quoted in The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long [underlining mine]. The start of another week. My twenty-first consecutive day of writing (something small, every day – I started on the last day of December). The pages of black ink an unbroken thread through my days. Mostly I feel like I’m just spilling out the detritus of my mind:¬†snippets of dreams, stray thoughts & …

Resolve

It’s been sparkly and bright. Full of family, food, togetherness & love, and crammed with nearly all of the Christmassy delights we could have wished for. We’ve had a fortnight of near-total bliss and I feel so very lucky. Today the older two little ones are back at school & nursery, B is back at work, and it feels a little like the real first day of the new year. It’s bittersweet: the sadness that we’re not all hanging out together anymore, but the excitement of new projects & plans. The whole year ahead, it’s shape yet to unfold. And all that I wish for, really, is that we’re all healthy, all happy (on balance), all still here next year. Which is, perhaps, a lot. I haven’t made resolutions or chosen a word for the year. Instead I’m following Austin Kleon’s wise advice: something small, every day. Which in this case is fifteen minutes of writing (truly small), every day (truly terrifying). Somewhere, somehow, the commitment to just fifteen minutes. It’s a test of my …