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Posted by Simon on 30th, November 2011 at 09:05:30
An entertaining question has arrived in my inbox. I sense a certain incredulity to it, but be that as it may, the issue raised is this - Where do I get the ideas for these bizarre Tweets that I post?
Literally speaking, the answer is anywhere. I always keep a notebook, or at least a piece of paper and pen with me, ready to jot down any gems which may suddenly arrive in brainworld, and the ideas for Tweets can strike at any place, any time. They can sometimes be triggered by an event or situation - I had one yesterday while dropping off empties at the Bottlebank! - or just materialise from apparently nothing, as can often be the way with thoughts.
I do sometimes make a conscious attempt to create a Tweet. And, if you really want to know - and you did ask! - I tend to do that in what I think of as downtime.
I don't like to waste time, as regular readers of my rantings will know, it being the one commodity we have a very limited amount of, and - in one of the great mysteries of life - never in fact know how much. So, even when I'm going about mundane tasks, like brushing my teeth, showering, or driving somewhere, I can often try to use the time profitably by thinking up the odd Tweet.
One that's aroused quite some interest of late is the Things and Thongs, Rights and Wrongs rhyme. Many questions were asked along the lines of - What the hell were you going on about there?!
A fair few folk also thought there was something a tad naughty to it, which made me smile. I like your thinking, but I'm afraid I'm not 19 any more, nor indeed anywhere close...
As you know, it's a rule of the writing world that we're never supposed to explain exactly what we mean with our scribblings. That would destroy the fun! It's all down to interpretations. Which, handily (and not entirely coincidentally), helps with the all important sense of mystery, publicity etc.
But what I will say about my Tweeting is don't take it all too seriously, and certainly not literally. You should know by now what a flippant way I often have, how I love playing with words and indulging myself in riddles and puzzles in particular, and that I have, on occasion, been accused of having a whimsical, lopsided, and even just downright weird view of this strange phenomenon called life...
Guilty as charged, I fear. Now, maybe that's not a bad idea for a Tweet...
Don't forget, if you've got a question you'd like to raise about the tvdetective books, or any of my writing - however strange - you can get in touch via the Contact page of the site - www.thetvdetective.com/contact.html
Looks, appearances etc.
Posted by Simon on 26th, November 2011 at 08:07:46
I've been working on characters for a new book, which has set me musing about the subject of appearance and how to describe it.
How can words capture something so distinct and esoteric as a person? I suppose the question answers itself.
A few writers rather better than I have wrestled with the problem of the inadequacy of the language. I remember Eliot talking about words slipping and cracking, never staying in place, and Orwell putting it more simply but still elegantly - as was his wonderful way - when reflecting on a love letter, and asking when in life do we ever manage to say exactly what we mean?
However, as words are our only weapons, we give it our best and come up with what we can, however we might look back and wonder whether it all works.
I had a lovely comment about Adam, and how one reader imagines him looking like Alan Hansen, the Match of the Day pundit. With that I was pleased, as in my mind it's not far off - a kind of focused intensity - so I must have got the description roughly right.
As for Dan, most people tell me they imagine him as pretty ordinary (apart from that precious perception), which again is mostly what I intended; an average man aside from his journey to discover and deal with that one wonderful gift.
And as for Claire... sigh. Regular sufferers of my ramblings will know very well how I feel about her!
For the new characters, I suppose I'm trying to find a few words to describe them - enough to give a sense of what they look like to me - sufficient to set the imagination running, but without being prescriptive. It's a fine line to draw and never easy to judge. But they are starting to live for me - I'm talking to them, getting to know them better, and some I'm liking, others I'm taking against - which is a good sign.
(Even if it might be midly worrying as an indicator of the kind of thing that goes on in my head).
Anyway, the good news is that I am actually writing again, and although it's not yet pouring out with grace, elegance and style (if ever it does), it is coming. Which gives me hope I'm finally beating this horrid bout of lyrical constipation known as writer's block.
Which in turn is good for all those around me, as it holds out hope I'm going to be less grumpy!
The practising of the preaching
Posted by Simon on 23rd, November 2011 at 07:36:19
I'm suffering a nasty bout of hypocrisy to go with my writer's block. It must be the time of year, more germs in the air etc.
Regular sufferers of my ramblings will know about the attack of the dreaded block which has been bothering me. Those with longer memories will also recall that on a couple of occasions I've happily served up hearty portions of advice about what to do for those similarly afflicted.
Don't get too wound up, says I. That only makes it worse. Walk away, ignore it, rise above it, don't let it goad or get to you, I preach. It'll go away in time to be replaced by the sunrise of inspiration.
So, has Dr Hall been following his own recommendations?
He has not, you may be unsurprised to hear.
Yep, I've been trying, but it's not that easy. It's so frustrating. When you love something as much as I do with writing, it really is like being parted from a sweetheart when it's not working out. So, despite my best advice, I've been getting cross and narky and entirely failing to be cool about it.
I have tried a few solutions. I've been running myself cross-eyed at the gym, and around the river, in the hope some pumping blood spurs my lethargic brain into action, and then going to the other extreme and laying back in a dark room, eyes closed, just trying to think.
Anyway, there is some good news, at LONG LAST! I've felt the clouds starting to shift and a few beams of light head my way. I'm beckoning and clutching and grabbing and hoping they'll be joined by more and more colleagues in sufficient numbers to deliver the muse back unto me.
I'm more than jolly pleased about it, to say the least. I fear these darker days will be even more depressing without the company of my fickle love...
The spice of writing
Posted by Simon on 19th, November 2011 at 17:24:42
If variety is the spice of life, I've just come to the thought it can also be the catalyst of writing.
I suppose I'd best explain, or you'll be lost in my commonly puzzling thought processes without a map.
That rather opaque opener for this blog comes from a very specific question which has been posed of me, which is this - how do I write? And my interrogator is keen to point out she doesn't want some wafty artistic answer, but a solid and grounded description of where and when.
The easy part, the when, is usually I write early in the morn, say from 6am onwards. It's for two reasons - one, that's the only time I can guarantee not to be called by work and so have a chance to concentrate, and two, it's when my brain tends to be freshest and most willing to disgorge some passable ideas.
The more interesting element, or so I've come to realise (first aside - thank you questioner; as ever, often the person who learns the most when being interrogated is the subject themselves), is where I write. Because it varies.
I commonly start the day by writing in bed. That's part laziness - I'm very fond of bed - and part warmth, particularly in the winter, but mostly because I usually have a head full of ideas as soon as I wake and want to write them down before they evaporate, as they have an annoying way of doing.
But, just as I used to break up my revision in those long ago student days, I like some variety to keep me entertained. After an hour or so, I'll commonly decamp downstairs to the lounge, and write there (I work on a laptop), perhaps to partake of a coffee to accompany the artistry, and then, maybe another half hour later, upstairs to my study to continue. That was never a conscious decision, merely instinctive; I find the change of backdrop helps keep me refreshed and creative.
And that's just the mechanics of the actual writing part. When I need to do some thinking, I can sometimes lay back on the sofa, listen to some music and close my eyes, or I might try a walk around the river, or a trip to the pub, for the wonderful inspiration of a pint of ale and a little of my favourite sport of people watching.
Variety appears to keep my oft-reluctant brain active, hence the itinerant writing style. So, very good question that inquisitor - thank you - and keep them coming in, it's always a pleasure to hear from readers.
If you've got a question you'd like to ask about the tvdetective books, or any part of my writing or education work, you can get in touch via the Contact page of the site - www.thetvdetective.com/contact.html
Easy ideas and hard work
Posted by Simon on 16th, November 2011 at 08:29:08
My little tweet of earlier in the week has attracted a few comments and questions. For those - difficult though I find it to believe that there may be many - who aren't following my e-musings with a rabid hunger, and even keener delight, what I said (in fewer than 140 characters) was this -
In my mind, the hunk of stone and the chisel. Afar, far afar, the sculpture. Time to be brave and begin...
The question of where do my ideas for books, bits of writing, teaching etc. come from is one of the most common I'm asked, and I've waffled about it before. But perhaps what I didn't make clear was this...
I have lots of ideas and much of the time, and the large majority come to exactly nowt. They're just passing fancies, the clicking of some electric synapse in the head area, and quickly discarded. But I'm always glad that they're appearing, because at least it means the brain is firing, chewing away at some thinking, however sub-consciously.
The times I don't care for at all are when no ideas are coming, but that's another story and I'm trying to cut down on my asides!
What I was trying to answer here is how I know when an idea's good enough to be worth entertaining, perhaps even to the level of writing more than a hundred thousand words around it, ie. a book.
A tricky question, but what I've come to believe is this - you can often tell the worth of an idea by how much it grabs you. If the thing takes on physical form, leaps up at you, sinks its teeth into your arm, insists it leads you somewhere and simply won't let go, that tends to suggest it may well be worth bothering with. If it loves you that much, I suppose it's only fair you should pay it some attention.
And after you've found that hunk of stone, and you're sure the pair of you make a match, then there's no other way than to grab the chisel and start working on it. The idea, beautiful though it may be, is nowhere near enough on its own. The annoying truth is that it has to be tended by a large amount of hard work to try to make it realise its potential.
Oh dear, this sounds like an allegory for certain other areas of life, but back to the point...
That's a brave process to begin, the actual working on the stone, and hence my little tweet.
I've been feeling a tad off the pace of life this week, almost insulated from the world, and I suspect that's the reason - the idea has been occupying me, maybe too much, and I'm taking the first steps into setting it down on paper. It's an exciting, but daunting point of life.
Looking back on this blog - as is commonly the case with me - I'm not sure how much of the questions posed of me that I answered, but I hope it helps a little.
If there's a question you'd like to ask about the tvdetective books, or any area of my writing, you can get in touch via the contact page of the site - www.thetvdetective.com/contact.html
Maybe if you do, I might finally come up with a more informative and straightforward answer..
A chucklesome review
Posted by Simon on 12th, November 2011 at 16:35:51
This business of reviews is a sticky subject with we writing folk. Fine ones are flown like the brightest and most boisterous kites from the highest peaks, less flattering ones can spark feuds which endure for lifetimes.
I've heard a few scribblers say they either don't read, or don't bother about, reviews; claims which I believe not at all, not in the slightest. There's not a writer who isn't proud of what he or she has come up with, who doesn't feel some sort of bond, or need to protect it.
In some ways it's like being a parent. You just have to look after and defend that which you've created, however flawed you know it might be.
Anyhow, given all that, let's trespass a little way into the dangerous land of reviews, because I was told of one offered of a book of mine this week which has made me chuckle every time I think about it.
It was on The TV Detective, penned by "The Librarian", and, in summary, went something thus - I was enjoying the book, got half way through and then left it on the tube, so I can't say any more.
Wonderful! This has set off all sorts of mental meanderings. What's become of the book? Has someone else picked it up and is reading it? And what of The Librarian? Has he or she gone out and got another copy, or were they perhaps not enjoying it quite that much?!
It's quite the most distinctive review I've ever had, so thanks to The Librarian for your contribution to my writing career, and for raising a much-needed smile in what's been a tricky week.
All this had me reflecting on what's one of the most curious elements of writing for me - the wondering what's happening to your books when they're published. Are people reading them in the bath, on a plane, on a beach, at home in their favourite armchair... and are they handing them on to others with a recommendation, giving them a favoured place upon a shelf, or setting their course straight to the charity shop?
So, I can now happily add a new and certain experience to my little wonderings about what fate befalls my books. I'm just hoping the novel in question has been found and given a decent home, and isn't still riding around on the Circle Line, much as its creator commonly does when he ventures out of the safety of Devon to the big city...
A nasty blockage
Posted by Simon on 9th, November 2011 at 08:20:49
I'm trying to work on the outline for a new book, and making less progress than poor Sisyphus.
In fact, I might even cast him an envious look. At least he got somewhere with that boulder. Mine currently feels like it's stuck fast to the bottom of the hill.
A few years ago, when first I started trying to write, this sort of situation would be the cue for much wailing and anguish. It's true, I was very young when I first learnt the meaning of melodrama, and I've cherished the word ever since.
These days, life has taught me it happens. I've learnt, through annoying experience, that when the muse decides to go off for a wander all my flailing attempts to lure her back will be spurned, and as befits such a fickle creature the only thing to do is wait until she decides to wander back.
That's not to say it's anything other than frustrating. But at least I'm feeling irked with pursed lips and a glower, rather than a running around screaming episode.
Anyway, the point of this blog (you knew I'd come to it sometime?!), is that I've been wondering if the changing of the season and the harshening of the weather has been an influence on the absence of inspiration.
For all we like to think of ourselves as civilised and advanced creatures, in my humble view we humans are in essence animals, only with less hair (quite a lot less, in my case). I wonder if the darker, colder days are sapping my energy and inspiration in much the same way as they're leeching colour from the world around.
I'm doing my best to combat it. I've gone Xmas shopping, and bought myself some very fine presents (Happy Xmas to me, never mind you friends and family... did I mention I was an only child?), and I've found warmth and colour by sitting next to open fires in pubs and wearing whatever bright clothes I can find - usually ties and shirts - but it just ain't working.
So, this morning, when I've finished this ramble, it's back to a familiar liaison with an old friend; a blank sheet of paper and a wait more uncertain than that for a rural bus service.
I think I might just take myself for a walk, enjoy the endless run of the river, the squabbles and fuss of the geese and ducks, and the view of the Devon countryside. That's if I can see it in the gloom.
Yours, not entirely cheerily, for this grey Wednesday morning, hoping the weekend forecast for some sunshine comes to pass and the muse wafts my way with it...
My greatest pleasures
Posted by Simon on 5th, November 2011 at 08:11:19
Having just written that title, I've immediately got the feeling some of you - the suspicious, cynical ones - or maybe just the ones who know me? - will be expecting an e-outpouring on the subject of beer, curry etc.
No, this is a response to a very fine question I was asked last week at the Chudleigh Book Fair (hello to anyone who went along, and thanks for such a fine evening - never before have I given a talk from what felt like a pulpit, another new experience). It went thus - which of my activities do I enjoy the most? (that's professional activities, before you start over-imagining again).
I count myself very lucky in that I enjoy all I do, aside from the occasional off-day, which appears a contractual part of this thing called life. But as for a favourite? Well, having now thought about it, I'd say it changes depending on which of the particular fields is proving the most stimulating at that point.
On the TV and news side, I get a great buzz from covering a big story and trying my best to do it well. It's the sense of being at the centre of events, and so many people looking to you to tell them what's happening.
Writing-wise, it can be the simple of moments, like the idea for a new novel, character or piece of work, and happily filling in pages on a notebook, polishing it, extending it, testing it, seeing if it's got what it takes to make it to publication.
And as for acutally being amidst writing a book, that's a joy. It's almost as if I leave this world for a while, to go and reside in the fantasy land I'm creating.
The education work I love too, thinking up new ways to try to teach people about writing. I never like to do it all straightforwardly! One thing I took from those long ago schooldays was that the best teachers were also entertainers.
But, finally coming to an answer, after all the usual rambling and digressions... at the moment it's the careers work which is lighting my heart the most.
I feel very privileged to be able to teach and mentor some young folk, and help them towards a life in the media. I heard yesterday that one of my students has just got her first job as a researcher with a TV company. I could hear the shining smile in her message, and it's stayed with me this morning.
Reading and regressing
Posted by Simon on 2nd, November 2011 at 07:42:46
One of my favourite parts of doing a talk about the tvdetective books is when it comes time to read a sample to the audience. I've been wondering a little why this may be, and hence today's musings.
The first thought that came to my chaotic mind was that it's a kind of regression thing, a draw back through the years to childhood, and memories of those safe and carefree days of laying in bed, being read to.
Reading aloud to a group of people, you often see them relax in a manner which is rare in this pressured world of modern life. Eyes close, faces ease, minds wander far from their usual haunt of troubled lands...
In fact, to this day, one of the richest experiences of my life, simple though it is, has been reading to my daughter Niamh, in her childhood times. It was the age of Harry Potter, and, being the dramatist type I am, I would put on voices for the characters.
When I thought Niamh was falling asleep, I'd wind up and go to put the book away, and invariably a little hand would emerge from the duvet, grab me, and the word "more" would be whispered into the twilight of the bedroom air.
Quick aside, you knew it was coming - that, of course, was way before she became the teenager of today, fixated on the latest music, fashions, the agonies of exams, and boys. Boys! Eek! And there I go no further!
Anyway, back to this reading aloud thing, and there's one other sizeable reason I think I enjoy it so much. I won't overdo the loneliness of being a writer (I can imagine the tears forming in your eyes now), but it is a curious experience.
You sit in a little room and type away, often for many months, huff and puff, struggle and sweat (I can sense those tears of yours growing), but it's only when the book comes out and you see the reaction of readers that you start to get a sense whether all that effort was worthwhile.
Reading some of your work to an audience - sensing and experiencing their feelings - is the true test of that. And so always a memorable moment.
I mention all this now, because the kind folk of Chudleigh have asked me to do a reading as part of tonight's Book Fair. So off I must go, to practice some inflexions, as it were.
The Fair is intended to be a good place to pick up some signed and dedicated books as Xmas presents. There are plenty of authors coming along, aside from your humble servant of a scribbler, so if you're about and free, do consider popping along. There are more details on the News and Events page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html