New Green Shoots of Inspiration Pushing Through the Sloth of Winter

The days are getting longer, dissipating Francesca’s winter stupor and helping her get more organised. 

img_3202

Crocuses popping up through the winter leaves

What a storm we had yesterday and last night. The trees were being blown around mercilessly, snapping twigs and even branches from trees onto the path and road. But as I took my grandson to school this morning, the sun was shining and the air was still. It was like the wind had blown winter away and brought in an early spring. In the garden much of my lawn is covered with crocuses and the first hellebores and bergenias are blooming in the flower beds.

During the winter months, especially with the dark closing in at four in the afternoon, I found myself plodding through my writing day, getting done what I could before my brain felt drugged by the gloom once more. The days upon days of grey clouds didn’t help either. I guess I’m someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder as I always feel much more depressed in the hibernal months.

Research for my latest novel

Research for my latest novel

My study desk has slowly been swamped with information and research for my various projects, as I’ve moved into the warmer dining room to use the table there instead. Apparently Roald Dahl used to work with a messy desk and look how successful he was. Despite that, I don’t agree with a recent study that decided that untidy desks help employees to think more clearly. That doesn’t work for me.

It’s nearly spring, and time for me to buck up. My books of ‘plot bunnies’ need locating and ordering. I have scores and scores of ideas but it seems sometimes it’s as big a hindrance to have too many ideas as none at all. They need organising, as does my time. I need to programme my work on the novel, short stories, competition entries and blog posts. Also I need to schedule time to submit my work. I have a writing friend who always submits on a Thursday. I think this could work for me, instead of being haphazard about it. What I need is a kind of timetable, as if I’m at school.

Desk pad, ready to fill out

Desk pad, ready to fill out

Of course, I have the luxury of doing this at the moment as I don’t currently have an editor waiting for edits on a story, a novel or a serial. On the other hand, it is useful to have someone else give you deadlines and I find I can work very efficiently when that’s the case.

So, I need the motivation to organise myself. Apart from rearranging my desk space, what else will help me? My diary comes in very useful for deadlines of competitions and for blog posts, along with the various writing events I attend. But most useful is my weekly desk pad, split into days of the week. It helps me focus my mind on what needs to be done in the present, how long each task should be given and what time of day to do it. The pad has been languishing on my desk, but now it’s time to put it back to work.

Do you find your writing is affected by the seasons? What do you do to motivate yourself and make the most of your writing time?

@FCapaldiBurgess

My February Competition Monthly on the RNA blog

As I returned home today, I found myself singing a song from the radio show ‘Sorry I’ll Read That Again’. Those of you of a certain age may remember Bill Oddie’s, Spring Spring Spring, the lyrics of which inspired the title of this blog. (My two youngest children used to do a wonderful rendition of it!)

Here it is. I hope it cheers you up and spurs you on like it did me!

Spring Spring Spring from ‘Sorry I’ll Read That Again’

 

Advertisements

Imagine…

Francesca and Elaine discuss how inspired they are when they listen to music.

Francesca: Over the years I have found songs useful not only for sparking fiction ideas, but for finding titles for short stories I’ve already written.

When will the characters meet again?

When will the characters meet again?

Some of these stories are still in idea form in my ‘Cooking’ notebook. Others have been written but not polished enough to send out, for instance This Old House, about someone visiting what used to be their home. The Night Has a Thousand Eyes was just the right title for a story about someone wishing on a star for the perfect love when he was right in front of her. When Will I See You Again was number 1 the day many of my friends left school and always reminds me of that time. It inspired a story about meeting someone again many years after, you guessed it, leaving school.

For the story of a Valentine’s dinner that burst into flames (based on a true incident in my life) I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire was the perfect title. As Tears Go By, is about a girl missing her… but if I tell you that and it’s published, I’ll give the twist away.

IMG_7427

Flicking through a record collection for inspiration.

Among the stories I have had published, Memories Are Made of This (Sweden’s Allas  and India’s Woman’s Era) seemed an apt title for the tale of a hoarding grandmother. Goat’s Head Soup (The Weekly News), is about an unusual dinner party. Waiting on a Friend (Woman’s Weekly) is about an old man about to meet a good mate he hasn’t seen in many years.

Three of my all time favourite songs/tunes, Summertime (from Porgy and Bess), Stranger on the Shore and Sleepwalk, have, oddly, never engendered any story ideas for me. I think perhaps only the middle one would make a good story title. All three do remind me of long, hot summers as a child and are therefore useful for mood creation – but that’s a different topic altogether.

It’s time I tidied up some of those unpolished stories and got them out there.

@FCapaldiBurgess

Elaine: One of my favourite pastimes is listening to music.

My grandson with his piano.

My grandson with his piano.

Music can set the mood, time and era in your writing. This is something I have included in my novels, however I do believe there is a copyright issue, depending on how much of a song or title you use.

For me, song writing is the ultimate short story and the titles are often used for these. The lyrics of songs have been known to reduce me to tears on more than one occasion. Music is linked to events in my life, the obvious one is a wedding day, but it can also send me back in time, and suddenly I’m reliving my youth, even if it’s only for three minutes. Therefore, it is logical to link music to situations.

I can’t say I have ever listened to a piece of music and been inspired to write something, which is strange in itself, as I know other authors have.

When I write a short story, it tends to stem from a situation, but as I’ve said, music sparks situations in your mind, so therefore, I will set myself a challenge to pick a song and be inspired to write a story. Am I alone in this? Let me know your thoughts.

@RobertsElaine11

 

If you’re struggling for inspiration, why not trawl through an old copy of a hit singles book or the internet for song titles/themes? This site has the top 100 UK hits for all the decades from the 1950s till now: http://www.uk-charts.top-source.info/uk-chart-history.shtml

 

One Percent Inspiration?

Francesca Capaldi Burgess considers ‘writer’s block’.

‘I don’t know what to do for the blog this week,’ I told my daughter, who promptly replied, tongue firmly in cheek, ‘What about writer’s block?’ Ha ha, I thought, then decided it was actually a good idea.

First of all, I don’t really believe in writer’s block. That is to say, I’ve never suffered from it. As someone who does suffer from time to time with depression, I do often get a kind of fuzziness that makes it hard to work, but that is more of a brain mush. At those times I still have ideas, so store them away in one of my ‘ideas’ books until I’m functioning better.

Interestingly, my other daughter told me a while back that she doesn’t believe in depression, but then she has never suffered from it. I think it often goes with the writing territory, to do with the introspection experienced by many writers.

But I digress. Even though I don’t suffer from writer’s block, I still have ways to get the creative juices flowing. Flicking through newspapers often elicits ideas (especially the tabloids) as do real life magazines, an overheard conversation, a documentary on the TV, music, a walk on the beach, a train journey, family documents, paintings…

A couple of years back I entered the ‘Flash a famous phrase’ competition, where I had to write a 500 word fiction based on a famous phrase. I chose ‘Every picture tells a story’ and extended an unsuccessful flash fiction written for a previous comp based on one of several paintings. I’d picked an 18th century painting, ‘Jean Abercromby, Mrs Morison of Haddo’, calling her instead Mrs Ross of Westwick, and imagined what she was really thinking while sitting for the portrait. It was great fun, as well as gaining me a 3rd place in the comp.

If you haven’t done so already, why not  pay a visit to an art gallery, or even a museum, purely for inspiration? Whether you think that the inspiration to perspiration ratio is 1:99, 1:2, 1:3, or whatever version you’ve come across (there are many!), it’s still good to have a place to start. As well as paintings, photographs can inspire too.

 

Do these photographs inspire any ideas for stories?

Do my photographs inspire any ideas for stories?

 

Having concentrated a lot on novels the last year, I’ve decided I really need to get back to writing some short stories, which is where I started and where I’ve so far had success. I’ve still got a lot of ideas to work on, but I’d also like to try the ‘Story Cubes’ my daughter gave me. There are nine cubes, with pictures on each side. I’ve just thrown four, and this is what came up:
cubes small

 

Hm. Any ideas, anyone?

 

@FCapaldiBurgess

 

Links:

Rory’s Story Cubes

Portrait of Jean Abercromby, Mrs Morison of Haddo by Allan Ramsay