It was a few years ago that an Open University Creative Writing Course was taken to kick-start creativity. The first thing I was told, on almost the opening page of my Unit booklet, was that there’d need to be a notebook for ideas. This, initially, was met with much internal hilarity: when there are ideas, I just write them down complete online. Why on Earth would there be the need to keep notes?
Several years on, there is not a day where a notebook is not close by.
Poetry is odd stuff: I’ll get a line in my head sometimes and then scrabble to keep it intact. That’s where pen and paper beat electronic means such as my phone, though I will freely admit that my tablet (and Pages) has become a useful fall-back notepad late at night or early in the morning. However, it’s those moments when a full-blown plot appears out of left field and EVERYTHING needs to be remembered now where this form is a massive boon.
Most of the stuff in the Book Of Shame is accompanied by such handwritten notes: both Already Grown and Reboot to Shell emerged fully formed. Occasionally it will only be a title that starts the process, and that was today’s revelation. 24 Adjectives for Pain was begun from a conversation between myself and my Physiotherapist, and now needs titles to accompany the journey from flab to fit. The notebook will be put to good use in the next few days, of that I have no doubt.
Writing should be a constantly evolving process: if it’s not, how do you ever get better? Once upon a time there was no need to be organised, but with so much else going on… without it, I’m frankly lost. Listing to other people’s wisdom pays dividends, people, it is why there’s so much stating the obvious going on all around you. What may seem obvious to one person is inevitably news to somebody else.
If all else fails, a notebook can be used for shopping lists and doodling in traffic jams.
I don’t know how other writers deal with rejection, except that it is something that anyone who writes will encounter the moment they throw themselves into competition. It is the inevitable consequence of attempting to be noticed, belief that one is only worthy when a total stranger decides your writing deserving of a wider audience. The problem, of course, is picking up confidence after failure, then carrying on.
I’m not sure if this is novel or not, but rejection here is dealt with via the Book of Shame.
Ever since I started entering contests in 2017, this is where the stuff is remembered: a copy of my poetry printed out, then stuck in place, with accompanying notes to remind what inspired the pieces, and what was learnt from them. The idea is to try and evolve after each piece or group of poems, alter approach and style to better mach the increasing amount of poetry that is being read, and then finally to transcend the feelings of failure. Shame, in this case, is not a bad emotion. It is the understanding that from failure comes progress, and to recall how that took place is as important as the poetry itself.
It’s easy to print the collections in a tiny format on my shonky printer: four poems to a page of A4 and then they’re cut up and stapled together. One of these two will now have four poems added for a second hit at a pamphlet submission, because I honestly think it is good enough. This is the first time that’s happened, and hopefully not the last. It will only get easier if I do more work, after all, and my workload/schedule is beginning to bear fruit in that regard. Who knew that if you keep writing, things get better?
In the unlikely event I do hit the jackpot, its where I’ll have lots of lovely background stuff to pull from as what inspired me to write in the first place. Whatever happens, it has become a way of celebrating progress and not allowing failure to consume me.
This Book of Shame is one of the most important things I’ve ever made.