Getting Stuck and Getting Unstuck

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I’m stuck. I’m not talking stuck as being fifteen and locked in your German pen friend’s bathroom on your very first evening in Cologne and the only way out seems to be climbing out of the window. But it’s on the second storey and you can’t even climb a ladder … And I’m not talking stuck as in when you get your palazzo pants caught in the wheel of a supermarket trolley and the only way out you can think of (because no one stops to help mad stuck-in-supermarket-trolley women) is to take your trousers off. But it’s broad daylight, you’re in the middle of a busy car park and you’re wearing your worst underwear and your husband’s socks …

I’m writing stuck. Maybe this is writer’s block? But I’ve always thought that meant you didn’t know what to write. That’s not my problem. I’m over forty thousand words into the first draft of my current novel and I’m loving the first thirty five thousand words. I know how the plot develops, I’ve seen how it ends. It’s the couple of chapters linking where I’ve got to and where I want to be that are the problem. It’s not that they’re bad chapters, in fact I love them. I’ve done some of my best writing in them. But they don’t work. I’m stuck in the middle of a novel and I don’t know how to get unstuck.

Strangely enough, this has happened before. The first time, I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote the same section until months passed by. Each time I tried to progress the story past that being-stuck point, something stopped me. I call that something “the voices” (you know, the ones that all writers hear, the ones that shout: “Don’t write them, write me! Me! Me! Write me!” All writers do hear them, right?) By the time I finished that (unpublished) book, I must have written at least half a dozen different versions of the same novel.

With ‘Strong as Death’ and ‘Selkie’, I experienced similar struggles, but by the time I tackled ‘Selkie’, I’d managed to convince myself to plough on past the being-stuck point to finish a first draft. I then went back and fixed what was wrong, and it worked.

I’ve got to a bit of a of being-stuck point in my life. I know where I want the plot (if that’s not stretching the analogy too thin) to go, but one thing my life has taught me time and again is, though I may think I’m writing it, I may think I have it all mapped out, that is rarely the case. So, prayerfully handing over my life stuck-point to the God I trust, my job is to keep moving forward, believing that in His time and in His hands, a resolution that hasn’t even figured in my very fertile imagination, will come about. And it will be perfect. Well, that’s been my experience thus far in my story, and believe me, some of the stuck-points I’ve been in have been more than tricky …

So, back to my WIP (or should work in progress be wip, or WiP?). I’m going to ignore the voices, leave those chapters as they are, and I’m going to move forward and write the parts I know will work. Sometimes, it’s only looking back you can see how things should have been written. Fortunately, with novels, we get that luxury.

Oh, and the German bathroom incident? The host family eventually realised something must be wrong, after all even cultural differences don’t account for unusually prolonged bathroom breaks. I threw the key out of the bathroom window and someone managed to unlock the door from the other side. (That was a master piece of communication through a locked door when neither party spoke the other’s language terribly well. Good job I knew the word for window. Fenster, in case you ever need it.) And the trolley incident? Knights in armour, I find, tend to be well over sixty and don’t even flinch when their quite creaky knees complain that there are better things to do than lie down in the middle of a wet, busy car park to fiddle with a mad stuck-in-supermarket-trolley woman’s trouser leg.

I’d like to say that I’ve never again had to be rescued from a bathroom, or a supermarket trolley. I can’t, though I am beginning to learn from my mistakes.

Visual Dare – Candid

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Lisa’s lyrical words paint an evocative picture in this lovely piece of flash fiction.

The Last Krystallos

candid-vis-dare-Photo Source and Vis Dare

I remember childhood tinged with yellow. Fields behind my house, long grass with ox-eye daises teetering on the breeze and scratchy corn itching my back as I lay staring up at gold-edged clouds between pages.

Then there were rosy sunsets and flushed cheeks and hands clasped tight as first love blossomed.

I wished for bouquets of red roses and a white wedding dress. I wanted teal bed linen and seafoam walls, and trails of green ivy climbing the brickwork. I wanted pink wine and black coffee, and multi-coloured years, merging into the silver of growing old together.

But life’s palette will be never more than my crayon box colours as I rest in a lost, brambled corner of the field behind my childhood home. My bones are bleached by time and the sanguine pools beneath me long consumed by mother earth as my first love…

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Blink and you’ll miss it!

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Yesterday, I noticed a few more wrinkles. Perhaps it’s because today I’m not just another day older, but a whole year? Today, I read this post and getting older doesn’t seem so bad.

Two of the children in the featured photo are mine. The passing of the years has seen them grow into adults who fill me with joy each day and the three boys with them are now fine young men. The friendship that was already years old when this photo was taken has sheltered me through storms, helped me find water in desert times, has rejoiced with me in good times. Who needs birthdays to celebrate? Thank you, Rebecca, for the wonderful reminder.

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I sit back, my head resting on the seat, looking out of the window of this racing train. I watch the terrain alter from snow smattered hills to green plains, barren heights to fertile valleys. It all changes so quickly. ‘Blink and you’ll miss it’ comes to mind! Life isn’t too dissimilar. The older I get, the more fleeting life seems. I was given this lovely, old photograph of my boys by the beautiful girl who is also in this picture with her brother. This dear friendship between families has lasted the years, though we have all changed so much.
As I look at those lovely faces, it makes me realize how quickly the years have gone by! ‘Time waits for no man’ and never rests but moves forward with relentless energy and pace. The seasons cycle, even ‘spin’ by. Darkness hands the relay baton to the dawn and…

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No Ordinary Love

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Valentine’s Day has been and gone (‘Good riddance’, some may say). I once received a Valentine’s poem that began, “Roses are red …” and someone even once wrote me a song that went, “I’ve seen you laugh, I’ve seen you cry, I’ve seen you so sad at that word goodbye …”. (It was a beautiful song, much better than the poem. Shame I’m the only one who knows what it sounds like now, since no copies still exist). I wonder how many love poems, how many songs about love, have ever been written?

The only poem  I know off by heart, apart from the one about roses that are red, is about crows, scratching in the garden. I learned it at school when I was about seven years old and despite many teachers’ subsequent efforts to get me to learn classics by rote, nothing has ever stuck beyond the odd remembered line about mellow mists, or daffodils, or nightingales.

I was supporting students in an English lesson recently and their objective was to look for metaphors and similes in ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes. My mother could recite that poem from beginning to end whilst I listened, captivated, as the whole thing played out like the film of a tragic love story in my imagination.

My attempts at writing poetry over the years have been less than successful and I marvel at those who can express themselves in verse, because let’s face it, poetry can move even the most un-academic heart. There are, however, few things more cringe-worthy than a bad poem, I should know, I’ve written enough of them. My late teens and early twenties are littered with the memory of my sentimental, big, blousy, overblown ramblings or, depending upon my mood of the time, my depressive yearnings that delved the dark depths of despair. (See what I mean? Thank goodness those litterings no longer exist.)

I took the title of my first book, Strong as Death, from arguably one of the most beautiful and poetic love songs written; it must certainly list amongst the oldest in existence: The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.

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There are many different interpretations as to who the lovers in the poem are. Is it simply Solomon wooing his Shulamite beauty? Or does it tell of her love for a shepherd, who she favours above the love of a king? Or is it an allegory for the relationship between the Israelites and their God? Or could it represent the relationship between Jesus and His church? Perhaps it’s all of these. Perhaps it’s even more.

I can only quote a few lines from The Song of Songs, but I don’t have to be able to recite poems about love to know what it looks like. I’m blessed to have people in my life who love me. How do I know? Because of how they love me, even when I am at my most unlovable. Being able to spout or pen wonderful words doth not a lover make.

I’m blessed to have lost people who loved me, people who I miss all the more because of the way their lives touched mine, shaped mine, enriched mine. And I’m blessed to taste each day the love of God that is new every morning, that is never clichéd, that never runs dry. That never gives up on me.

 

 

 

One Man’s Trash

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Reading this, I was transported back to my childhood. We had a “button” tin too. Wonder where that went?

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“Naw, let’s just leave it there for now.” Mama said over her shoulder as she washed a plate and arranged it with others in the rack.

I didn’t ask why I couldn’t have it, I just dropped the rusty key back into the drawer and watched it disappear between a crushed matchbook and a small ball of frayed string.

When I was little the drawer by the refrigerator was a mystery. The clanking sounds made as Mama or Daddy dug through it and the strange faces they made when they picked up one item or another, stared and tossed it back, were intriguing. Finally tall enough to open it myself, I’d spent a few minutes running my hand through the odd assortment of things in the drawer. If Mama wouldn’t let me have the rusty key I didn’t dare ask about the torn Queen of Hearts playing card, the bent thumb tack, or the random assortment of colored bread ties. They must really be valuable.

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