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Oh So Middle of the Road

23 May

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Stay in the middle of the road, Mum said, that way no one can jump out at you, attack you from the edges, or the hedges.

Walk in the direction of on-coming traffic, Dad told me, so you can see what’s coming and take evasive action, if they don’t.

Don’t stray over the line, my instructor commanded, keep yourself safe.

The cop had asked me to walk the line.

Like Johnny Cash, I asked.

Like I’ve never heard that before.

I wasn’t drunk or high. I had not been using any illegal substances. There was nothing in my actions that would betray me.

If you don’t count the destruction I had wracked behind me. Still, at least I had kept myself safe.

 

This piece was inspired by a photo on 23rd of May 2019 @ Creative Writing Ink – Prompts 

If you liked this piece, maybe you would like to buy me a coffee.

 

 

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Routines and Not Having Them

21 May

I’ve been talking to a couple of my creative friends about the value of having routines: that’s not strictly true, we’ve been moaning about not having them. One has had her routine disrupted by boomerang children; while the other has taken redundancy from a full-time job to pursue her passions. I should also say, now that I am officially self-employed/non-earning, that I am also looking for balance.

The life of a creative person is as varied as the number of creatives there are. Some crave routine, while others want to be free to see where the muse takes them. The routine folk are disciplined, but I also think, probably people who don’t have any other pressing commitments; while the free folk are in danger of the muse never taking them to their work table.

D said that she didn’t want to move out of the workplace only to be ruled by her own timetable of tasks. While M just wanted everyone to leave her in peace for long enough that she could get into the right mindset for writing.

A couple of weekends ago, or is it three, I was in Gatehouse of Fleet, and was really chuffed that I could spend time putting my novel in order and figuring out where the gaps were. So, I came home with great plans which up to the last couple of days have come to naught.

So, what happened a couple of days ago? Well, I spent quite a lot of time with my usual foottering, although I did have emails etc that I had to catch up with (as I’ve been visiting hospitals again). But then, I decided that I would write 1000 words, not of short stories, though there are a few half-written, but of my novel. I wrote 1000, or there abouts, but came to a natural stop at 19,000 words exactly. It was almost as though my writing genie was making a point. And so, 1000 words today have also been written (again of the novel). I know it takes a few weeks for things to become habits, but maybe if I really stick at the routine, then I will make headway, and stop wasting so much time figuring out what was happening when I last wrote the damn thing.

On a side note, I’ve also put a pedometer back on my phone, so am trying to make walking part of my routine again (take steps while the sun shines).

And another side note, is about my side bar: while I was foottering around the internet I came upon Ko-fi which allows you to buy virtual coffee. If you would like to support what I do, then you can click on the link. Ta.

Ko-fi.com/colettecoen

 

Procrastination, Clutter and the Creative Process

7 Nov

A friend just won a de-cluttering voucher at a raffle, her husband commented, ‘I know what we need to get rid of, it’s doing it that’s the problem.’

Well, I am a fan of clutter, although I am also an ex-librarian and it has to be organised clutter. I tend to know where things are, even if things aren’t quite in Dewey Decimal order. I thought I’d share with you a photo of my very cluttered work space just before I have a bit of a tidy.

My mind can be on about three different projects at once, and this is reflected in the guddle that is my desk. I also know what needs to be read/attended to/filed, it’s just getting round to doing it that’s the problem.

 

My messy workspace.

Can you spot:

Inspiration quotes and Guardian cartoons hiding the front cover of All the Places I’ve Ever Been;

Dictionaries and grammar books being held straight by Lewis’ chess pieces;

My new business cards for Beech Editorial Services;

My lovely blue sand hour glass, which amazed my teenage daughter as it actually runs for an hour. (She’s more used to egg timers). It’s meant to help me stay focused on the task in hand;

Catalogues that I have browsed through, but need to actually buy from if anyone is going to get anything for Christmas;

Books on Mary Queen of Scots and a printout on the Scottish Enlightenment;

At least four notebooks;

A Bakewell slice;

Files full of information and inspiration for the two novels I am currently working on;

Lots of stationery;

A pile of half-read Writing Magazines?

Amazingly there is no coffee cup (surely some mistake), and I’ve saved you the boxes of magazines and newspapers that hide under the desk, to be plundered for ideas at a later date. And that, really, is the point of all the clutter, to inform, to entertain, to inspire – I sound like the BBC. Organised chaos, basically, a bit like my mind…

Right, on with the de-clutter, I might be here a while.

Back at the Writing Desk

7 Aug

So here I am back at the writing desk after a lovely summer of sunshine and almost three weeks away from home (one in Millport and two in Mallorca). Exam results arrived this morning, to cheers and sighs of relief, and while I don’t normally start my new year until the schools go back, I might as well ride this wave.

I felt a little displaced on holiday – what was I on holiday from? Carer’s Leave? No, definitely still on duty in that respect. Writing? I had my notebook with me, and lots of reading (although most of it for pleasure – Eligible/Curtis Sittenfeld, The Lie Tree/Frances Hardinge and Mr Mac and Me/Esther Freud) so was I really on holiday from that? My husband and friends (who we were with) couldn’t understand my existential angst, after all, they were very clear that they were on holiday from their stressful jobs. But there are blurry lines about what constitutes work when you are a writer. Does reading the paper count, if I am looking for inspiration? Does reading a novel, if I am examining style? What about watching TV to look at story and character arcs? I suppose they can only be classed as work if there is an output from them, as well as an input. So on with the output.

But where to start?

Sunshine Days

15 May

I know my blog can sometimes read like a misery memoir, so here are my cheerier reflections. I am just back from a long weekend spent in  Woodstock Lodge with 5 of my dearest friends, celebrating a significant birthday (which we will pretend is 40, but isn’t)IMG-20180512-WA0037 We got together as our eldest kids are all the same age (and went to school together), and now we are living through their second year at university.

The sun shone, and while we were on the Clyde Coast, we could have easily been on Lake Garda. Sunshine, prosecco,  hot tub, the works. And we talked, and we talked, telling stories, entertaining ones, heartbreaking ones, inconsequential ones. What struck me today, as I recover from the booze, is that even though we meet regularly, and talk, it is only when you have real time to speak and listen that you form deeper connections. I feel as though I understand my friends so much better from hearing more about their past, and their plans and dreams for the future (especially when our lottery wins cover more than the weekend’s food shopping).

So, it’s back to reality now: the shopping and the washing done, the house pulled back together, tomorrow the creative stuff starts again.

 

Toro Bravo

28 Jul

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Flamenco comes from the heart ­ the blood pulsating around your body, twisting your arms, contorting your hands. Toro Bravo, the bull, the flashing red skirts of MariePaz, we dance our battle.

The rhythm makes its way unfiltered to my feet as they stamp the beat on the ground, and to my hands as they clap in syncopation. I can feel the veins in my neck, my forehead. I look at MariePaz ­ she is absorbed in the dance. The passion she once felt for me, and I for her, now expended solely in the performance.

The music stops, and we hold our final pose. Our all-inclusive audience clap as I mop my brow.

 

Inspired by the above photographic prompt at Creative Writing Ink

Kentucky Derby

28 Jul

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Kentucky Derby

She handed me a crisp pound note, fresh from her pension. ‘Get five shillings and the rest in smash.’

At nine, I am already taller than my wee Granny, so I go up to the booth and translate the request into new money.

Diane likes the tupenny falls. The exact timing of dropping the coppers in, watching them fall, pushing other coins forward. Some drop onto the next level to be raked, moving others tantalisingly close to the win.

Granny stands at the one-arm bandit. She anticipates three cherries while building up the muscles in her right arm. We’ll get an ice-cream push-up if she wins big.

Both games are too sedentary for me. I am drawn to the Kentucky Derby. I play it every day, building up my winning tokens to be exchanged for a prize on the last day of the holidays. There’s a teddy bear for a hundred tokens, though Granny says it would be cheaper to buy. I really like it though, even if I just have fifteen tokens with six days to go.

I put my money in the slot, wait for my ball to roll to the front of my game area. I like to sit on the third seat, three being my lucky number, the date of my birth. The ball is yellow, which I like too, as are the coloured border of the target holes. I don’t mind if someone else is already in my seat, it doesn’t put me off, but gives an added challenge.

When the man running the stall figures that no one else is coming, he puts us under starters orders. The horses are all ready, waiting for our commands. And they’re off.

You need to be quick. Rolling your ball up the slope. Aiming for the three-point hole, but satisfied with a two. My horse moves forward ­ one, two.

Commentary blares over the speakers, filling the whole arcade. ‘And Number Six is leading by a head.’

There’s a fat man who plays all day, or at least all the times I’m here. He’s my main rival. But what he has in speed, I make up in accuracy. I’m ahead. The race is on. I can see his sideways glance, but I am under strict instructions not to talk to him.

Diane comes up behind me, wants to show me her handful of winnings, but I blank her out for a few more seconds to secure my win.

I’m handed my token, and pop it in the sparkly purse, which I wear diagonally across my body. I take out another coin to start again.

When we run out of money it means it’s time to go back to the flat that Mum’s friend lets us have. When it’s raining, we run ahead of Granny, while she braves the elements in her summer coat and rain mate. But if it’s dry, which it sometimes is, we shorten our steps to walk beside her, as she limps along with her rickety legs and bad hip.

I tell her about my races, and ask if we’ll get ice cream from Nardini’s later. And she tells me again, not to talk to the fat man, who sits all day at the Kentucky Derby, trying to get enough tokens for a giant teddy bear.

 

This piece was inspired by the CHANGE prompt at Creative Writing Ink

 

Away with the Fairies

3 Nov

When the children asked why Granny couldn’t remember their names, or talked to them like they were her childhood friends, I couldn’t bear to use the words – Dementia, Alzheimer’s. Their little tongues wouldn’t be able to wrap themselves around the syllables, so said she was away with the fairies. It made them giggle, satisfied their curious minds. It made me wonder how long I had accepted the same explanation when my mum used it for my little Nan. How long before I drummed up the courage to ask if it was really the fairies that were occupying her mind. From my reading of the Brownie Handbook, I would have thought it was more likely to be imps, making Nan leave the gas on to boil the electric kettle dry; making her strip to her girdle and knickers, and walk out to meet the postman.

It seemed appropriate that we took Mum out to the woods to scatter her. The roots of blown down trees looked like fairy skyscrapers, with nooks and crannies to hide precious memories. A ring of mushrooms under an oak. Stones neatly piled. Tinkling in the breeze.

‘What do we do now?’ Moya asked.

The rituals at the church and crematorium were for others to command, now it was my turn, and I struggled under the weight of expectation. A new tradition about to be born through this death.

‘Form a circle,’ I said, thinking back to my childhood’s Thursday nights. ‘Hold hands. Now we skip.’

John looked at me, and I knew he thought I’d gone too far.

‘Even Daddy?’

‘Especially Daddy.’

We skipped in a circle as I mumbled incantations from all the cultures that had brewed in my life. Then I broke the circle, stood in the middle, a tight little group, clasping hands around me. I took her from my pocket, and silently asked the fairies to look after her.

This story was written in response to this prompt at Creative Writing Ink

A photo by Robert Lukeman. unsplash.com/photos/_RBcxo9AU-U

Ice Queen

22 Apr

There’s more to her than meets the eye, there’s got to be. That cold exterior must have some hidden depths. Maybe when she leaves here she helps out at a soup kitchen, or a food bank. Maybe she rescues dogs, or half-squashed hedgehogs.

She can’t possibly be this shallow – only worried about face creams and this month’s healthy eating craze. Surely her well-educated brain has space for the plight of refugees or how to combat global warming.

I look across the desk at her. She’s been trying to make me cry all day. Throwing reports at me, asking for figures she knows she has banjaxed, commenting on how her sister would never leave the house without full make-up, let alone turn up at work with dried baby-sick to be scratched off a jacket, and she had twins.

I do not rise to her bait. I have worries and joys and pains and delights that she cannot even image as she sails her solitary course. But one day she will approach me from the wrong angle, and find that I have hidden depths, and there is a fire raging within my ice.

 

 

This piece of flash fiction was inspired by the photo prompt at Creative Writing Ink – their copyright.

American Gothic – Flash Fiction

11 Feb

 

It seemed cruel of him to send me the card – he knew it was my favourite painting – the woman, stoic in her love. ‘Such a romantic,’ he said, ‘I prefer Munch.’

I’m getting married and thought I should let you know, was scrawled inside, in that writing I had learned to decipher .

He didn’t give a date or place, nor the name of his bride or an address, but his meaning was clear – although I am getting married, one day you and I will grow old together – wait for me.

 

This piece was inspired by the painting American Gothic, as posted at Creative Writing Ink

#flashfiction #americangothic #creativewritingink #valentinesday #love

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