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November 2013

October 2013

Flying off....

Green Willow by Warwick Goble

I'm flying off to south-east Asia today as a guest of the Singapore Writers Festival. The writing life is a funny old thing. The long hours, the insecurity of freelance work, the crazy ups and downs of the publishing industry all make for a profession that's a lot less glamorous than most people imagine...but then someone invites you half-way around the world to talk about fairy tales, and suddenly it feels a little glamorous after all.

I'll be back on this blog in two weeks (Monday, November 11). If you happen to be going to the Singapore Writers Festival yourself, please come and introduce yourself. I'll also be at a fairy tale symposium in Sussex at the end of November, if Singapore is a little too far afield.

'See you in mid-November!

"Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art."  - Freya Stark

''One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.''  - Henry Miller

Image above: "Green Willow"  by Warwick Goble (1862-1943)

On giving ourselves permission...

Tilly in the woods, 1

"To allow ourselves to spend afternoons watching dancers rehearse, or sit on a stone wall and watch the sunset, or spend the whole weekend rereading Chekhov stories -- to know that we are doing what we’re supposed to be doing -- is the deepest form of permission in our creative lives. The British author and psychologist Adam Phillips has noted, 'When we are inspired, rather like when we are in love, we can feel both unintelligible to ourselves and most truly ourselves.' This is the feeling I think we all yearn for, a kind of hyperreal dream state. We read Emily Dickinson. We watch the dancers. We research a little known piece of history obsessively. We fall in love. We don’t know why, and yet these moments form the source from which all our words will spring."

- Dani Shapiro (from her new book, Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life -- which I'm reading now with great pleasure, and recommend)

Tilly in the woods, 2

Tilly in the woods, 3

Climbing the hill: reflections on persistence

Hillside 1

"Writing is difficult. You do it all alone without encouragement and without any certainty that you'll ever be published or paid or even that you'll be able to finish the particular work you've begun. It isn't easy to persist amid all that. Sometimes when I'm interviewed, the interviewer either compliments me on my 'talent,' my 'gift,' or asks me how I discovered it. I used to struggle to answer this politely, to explain that I didn't believe much in writing talent. People who want to write either do it or they don't. At last I began to say that my most important talent -- or habit -- was persistence. Without it, I would have given up writing long before I finished my first novel. It's amazing what we can do if we simply refuse to give up."  - Octavia E. Butler

Hillside 2

"Of course you must perservere. Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst."  -  Henri Cartier-Bresson

Hillside 3

"The rewrites are a struggle right now. Sometimes I wish writing a book could just be easy for me at last. But when I think about it practically, I am glad it's a struggle. I am (as usual) attempting to write a book that's too hard for me. I'm telling a story I'm not smart enough to tell. The risk of failure is huge. But I prefer it this way. I'm forced to learn, forced to smarten myself up, forced to wrestle. And if it works, then I'll have written something that is better than I am."  - Shannon Hale

Hillside 4

"What is it about writing that makes it -- for some of us -- as necessary as breathing? It is in the thousands of days of trying, failing, sitting, thinking, resisting, dreaming, raveling, unraveling that we are at our most engaged, alert, and alive. Time slips away. The body becomes irrelevant. We are as close to consciousness itself as we will ever be. This begins in the darkness. Beneath the frozen ground, buried deep below anything we can see, something may be taking root. Stay there, if you can. Don’t resist. Don’t force it, but don’t run away. Endure. Be patient. The rewards cannot be measured. Not now. But whatever happens, any writer will tell you: This is the best part."   - Dani Shapiro (Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of the Creative Life)

Hillside 5

"We are made to persist. That's how we find out who we are."  - Tobias Wolff