Reclamation

Last weekend, I found myself at a grubby reclamation yard. Not in a revelatory, momentous, personal kind of way. I simply mean I was there. In person. At the reclamation yard.

This is important because I was there with my wife and not my children, who are beautiful, all-encompassing creatures who fill my days with joy and nonsense. When I am with them, they have my full attention.

This is also important.

We went to the reclamation yard because we wanted to buy a wood burner on the cheap and we’d dropped the boys off at my parents, so we could get stuff done. It's a strange place, the reclamation yard, three portacabins jigsawed together beneath a corrugated roof that looks like it could go at any minute. It is cold, damp and full of curiosities.

We quickly found the wood burners. We stood by the wood burners. We talked about the wood burners. We had questions about the wood burners. My wife left to find the man. It is almost always a man.

While I waited, I looked around at shelves and shelves of tat and treasures. In that brief, solitary moment, all I saw was stories. Stories, stories everywhere. Stories and questions.

That piano, with its broken-teeth keys and filthy lid. Where did it come from? Who did it belong to? Why did they stop playing?

I took out my phone, swiped up to access the camera, took a picture.

I left my position by the wood burners and started walking. My mind wandered with me.

I found doors. Dozens of doors. Doors that must have opened and closed, opened and closed, opened and closed, thousands and thousands of times.

Who did that one belong to? The blue door. The blue door on its own amongst the other, more plain-looking doors. Whose door was that? Was blue their favourite colour? Maybe they hated that door. Perhaps they’d wanted to paint it red, but someone else wanted it blue. Was there an argument? A fist fight?

I kept going, noticed a group of chairs, none of which matched.

One chair had a name on it.

Harry Redshaw.

Who was Harry Redshaw and why was he so special? Maybe he was chairman of his local bowls club and when he retired, they put his name on a chair. Or did he die in-post? Was his wife so struck with grief that one night, six months after his death and under a thin moon and thinner clouds, she walked to the bowls club, found the chair with his name on it and sat for a while, whispered sweet nothings to the stars?

I continued. Kept my head up. Kept looking and finding.

A collection of curios. Odds and ends. Objects and memories.

Charles and Diana.

Who would own a tray like this? My auntie. She might have owned a tray like this. Would she have had it on display? Probably. Though not in her best room. No, she’d have put it on the drawers at the bottom of the stairs. By the family photos. Near the front door. I miss my auntie.

I do miss my auntie.

By now, I’d walked full circle, passed every nook and cranny at the reclamation yard. It took no more than five minutes.

In that time, I remembered everything I’ve ever known about writing. That will and wanting is never enough. Stories can’t be forced. They must be found. Found and reclaimed.

Thirty seconds later, my wife returned. She didn’t trust the man. He wanted way too much. We didn’t buy a wood burner.

#145: That's Great News for Denmark

In episode 145 of the Write for Your Life podcast, me and Donna talk about her most loved and hated things of 1993 and Mark Zuckerberg's lame book club. We also look at True Detective, which is great and gave me the willies, but its (mis)representation of women made me feel very uncomfortable. Oh, and we also talked aboit how to start working on your second drafts!

Visit the page for episode 145 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

#144: Very Sexy Podcast

In episode 144 of the Write for Your Life podcast, me and Donna discuss the world's top sexy creative pursuits, writing myths and what not to say to writers, baby steps at learning Danish, and do writers repeat small writing exercises? Why yes. Yes they do. Like Morning Papers, Newspaper Blackouts and Index Card Shorts. Grab your headphones. Hit the playboard.

Visit the page for episode 144 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

#143: Everything Comes in Fours

In this week's somewhat delayed episode of the Write for Your Life podcast, I talk to Donna about some extreme wind, what pages to include on your author website, Kickstarter and the Stacey Jay kerfuffle, Mark Zuckerberg's brand new book club and, seriously, who's controlling our channels? It's a good one. Listen up.

Visit the page for episode 143 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

How to subscribe to my website

Fun title, eh? For those of you who are already subscribed and going about your lives as if this isn’t really, really important, then do feel free to carry on with what you were doing.

However. Two things.

First, some people may or may not know how to subscribe to the site. I’ve messed with it a lot over the last couple of years and things have moved, stuff has changed.

Second, it seems I’ve made a royal mess of the RSS feed. Basically, when I moved the site to the marvellous Squarespace, I effectively didn’t read the instructions and pressed the wrong button. It wasn’t their fault. Feedpress, the service that handles the feed, it wasn’t their fault either. I just wasn’t paying attention. I’m a giant nit.

Effectively, in October, I abandoned around 600+ subscribers in cold web space. I’ve tried to find a way to get them back, including various forums, help desks and some occasional shouting into the breeze. Nothing has worked. As far as I can tell, they are gone. I hope that they are okay.

All of this makes it a sensible time to point people to the following details. If you were one of the abandoned, my arms are open and I would like you back. I’m sorry.

These are your options:

You can also subscribe to my newsletter, which I will be starting up again shortly. It contains occasional me-news and plenty of links to useful writing, reading and related internet paraphernalia.

And I’m on Twitter as, you know, me, too. Feel free to find my face. Follow it.

#142: Make and Share

In the first Write for Your Life episode of 2015, me and Donna look back at some highlights from last year and then forward to the writing changes ahead, which include me writing one novel instead of two, her allotting tasks to physical space and both of us making and sharing more of our work. Which I think you should do too.

Visit the page for episode 142 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

#141: The Little Match Girl

In this Christmas special episode of the Write for Your Life podcast, I say a few thank yous before sending you off on a journey with The Little Match Girl via some marvellous music from friends of the podcast, Native and the Name. Happy holidays folks!

Visit the page for episode 141 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

#140: Big Brother-in-law

Episode 140 of the Write for Your Life podcast saw me and Donna talk about Christmas cards, family holidays, Zoellagate (again), publishing short stories, style guides for companies, and creating a style guide for your fiction. We're taking a break next week as our usual release day is Christmas Day. Hope that's all right.

Visit the page for episode 140 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

#139: Your Sister, the Ghost Zombie

Apologies for the delay in posting the link to last week's episode of the Write for Your Life podcast podcast. We talked about writers and mistakes in job applications, the huge fuss over Zoe Sugg's ghostwritten debut novel, changes to the Pulitzer Prize, and the importance of celebrating our small victories as writers.

Visit the page for episode 139 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

Full-time at Cornerstones Education

If you listen to the Write for Your Life podcast, which you absolutely should, you may have heard me say on episode 138 that I am back in full-time employment. I thought I should confirm as much here.

And yes, it's true.

On 1 December, I became a full-time employee at Cornerstones Education. They were my main client since going freelance in April, they're a great company and I'm very happy about how it's all panned out. It's the right place to be for me and my family.

That's not to say that I didn't love being a freelance writer. And I was all right at it too. I did it for nine months and I was never short of work. I worked on interesting projects for interesting clients and I was able to pay the bills. But sometimes the stars align and, life-wise, there is only one clear option.

My new role at Cornerstones is interesting, challenging and I am using all the skills I've developed since leaving university 11 years ago. The company writes, produces and sells a creative curriculum for primary schools. I’m now Curriculum Editor. It’s a big responsibility, but I’m enjoying it.

What does it all mean?

For me, all sorts of things, but you don’t need to worry about my mortgage or whatever. For you, it will hopefully add another angle to what we talk about on the podcast and what I write about here on the site.

Speaking of which.

After jazzing everything up to make the site look all freelance writery, I might well scale it back again. I’ve been toying with putting the blog back on the homepage for a while, so I might do that. We’ll see.

#138: Secret Snuff Hole

In this week's episode of the Write for Your Life podcast, me and Donna talk about pronunciation wars, the #wfyl hashtag, performing at spoken word events, writing workspaces and my new gold iPad. We also venture onto the problems with Kindle Unlimited for indie authors, and that voice in your head when you're writing.

Visit the page for episode 138 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

#137: Nine Cards

This week me and Donna again try to pronounce a dear listener's name, then we talk about my new job (which I haven't written about here on the blog yet), the success and storytelling of Serial, and how to include simile and metaphor in your writing. Donna also reads a poem.

Visit the page for episode 137 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

#136: You've Been Promoted

This week on the Write for Your Life podcast, me and Donna cover Apple's App Store switch from 'Free' to Get', what we'd do if we had 10 uninterrupted days alone (possibly in a shipping tanker), and those crazy cats who still insert two spaces between sentences.

This episode is sponsored by Backblaze, the perfect backup solution for pretty much everyone, but especially writers.

Visit the page for episode 136 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

Writing and wellness

Last month, I answered some questions about writing and wellness as part of Colleen Story’s interview series with authors. You can read the interview right here on her site.

I have to say, the process got me thinking. Writing and wellness. Not two words you’d necessarily put together. Apart from a little back pain and maybe the odd bout of RSI, the act of writing isn’t particularly physical.

But when you think about it – or when you have to answer interview questions – you realise there’s a lot more to it than that.

Writers sit for hours in front of a computer screen. We worry endlessly about whether everything we do is terrible. We have no idea if it will all be worth it in the end.

It’s a pretty stressful hobby with few immediate rewards. Think of other hobbies. If you go to the gym, you feel better right away. If you enjoy knitting, people might see the fruit of your labour the next day.

‘That’s a nice scarf.’ ‘Thank you. I made it last night.’

Writing is an never-ending process that involves lots of time alone in a frequent state of persuading yourself that your time – such precious time – is being well spent.

Lots of fun. Really healthy.

Writing and wellness is an interesting subject that we don’t talk about enough. I know that since having children, my writing process has totally changed and that’s mostly down to my health.

Not that I’m ill. I’m absolutely fine.

But I do get up at 6am every day, which means I can’t write well at night. I spend my weekend days with my boys, which means I’m not at my desk, like I would have been before.

I’ve learnt that as our lives change, so does our health and wellness, even if only a little. It affects our writing, but the trick is to adapt, do things differently, try and find new routines.

And that’s perfectly possible. People do it all the time.

Head to Colleen’s site to read the interview.

#135: Even Wingdings

This week on the Write for Your Life podcast, we talk about abandoning your muse, the importance of typography when reading and writing, how to handle insecurity as a writer, a new novel writing app called Novlr, and the listener's question Christmas single.

Visit the page for episode 135 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

#134: Wheelchairs for tonsils

In this week's episode of the Write for Your Life podcast, me and Donna talk about writing and wellness, how to get on to an MA or MFA writing programme, and whether NaNoWriMo is a good thing, bad thing or neither here nor there.

Visit the page for episode 134 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

#133: Pencil Cuddle

In episode 133 of the Write for Your Life podcast, we tackle the fine art of dealing with negative reviews online, consider the astonishing number of books published in the UK every hour, and discuss whether or not writing is an act of compulsion.

Episode 133 was sponsored by Squarespace, the perfect way to make your own website. Use offer code 'WRITE' to get 10% off your order.

Visit the page for episode 133 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.

#132: Impressive Pregnant Cyclist

In episode 132 of the Write for Your Life podcast, I tell Donna about my return to YouTube and we talk about the Booker prize 2014, as the winner was announced this week. I then refer to an email conversation we had earlier in the week in which I unexpectedly found myself somewhat defending the supposedly evil Amazon. Later in the show I give some tips on how to perform fiction in public, and our listener's question is all about the role an author plays in contract negotiations.

Visit the page for episode 132 on 5by5 to listen, subscribe and find show notes.