Dreaming Seriously

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For a very long time I have wanted to be a writer. Wanted to be but never thought I would actually be one because I thought that in order to be a writer I would have to get published or be paid to write in some capacity or another. And I figured neither of those things would happen for me because I assumed my writing would never be good enough. So I continued to daydream about ‘being a writer’ without really doing anything about it. I didn’t even write as much or as often as I wanted to because I couldn’t see the point. It felt self indulgent to write for myself so I continued with the odd blog post here and there, the odd scribbled poem in my notebook, and random snippets of ideas that never became anything more.

And then I had an epiphany.

I couldn’t even really tell you where it came from, or exactly when I became conscious of it. I suspect it had been building up in the back of my mind for some time. What I realised was that the only thing I needed to do in order to be a writer was to write.

I know, I know, it seems stupidly simple. Or maybe it just seems stupid, I don’t know. But I suddenly accepted that I could write just for myself and call myself a writer. That I could write without it being my job or career or providing any sort of income and call myself a writer. That it was the act of writing that would make me a writer and not anything else.

I also began to recognise that if I wanted any hope of writing becoming my career/job/source of income then I would need to get better at it, need to get into the habit of building it into my day and committing time to it. And in order to do those things I had to start writing.

Once I had this moment of enlightenment I was full of all sorts of ambitious goals for myself. I would write every single day, without fail! I would get up an hour early to write! I would write at least four blog posts a week, finish a writing a novel in a month, write and publish a poetry collection and produce some short stories! I was not especially realistic and after 3 days of trying to get up early to write and either failing completely or getting up but just being too tired to write, I also realised I was going to have to make this work for me.

I’m still working on a regular writing routine, but what I have been able to do is write far more regularly than ever before. And I’ve loved it! I’ve seen increased engagement on my blog, I’ve written over 11,000 words of the novel that’s been in my head for six years, I wrote and submitted some poetry to an independent publishing house and, in the last week, I wrote and submitted my first paid piece of freelance writing and was invited to be a contributing blogger for a local not-for-profit mental health organisation.

The act of acknowledging myself as a writer is the very thing that triggered opportunities where others might see me as a writer.

I don’t know where these opportunities might take me. I don’t know if writing will ever be my full time job. But I do know that by taking my dream seriously it has started to become a reality.

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Wild & Improbable Tales – Silent Melody

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Her hands fluttered at her chest; a delicate, hummingbird movement that those who didn’t know her would think showed nervousness. But he did know her. He watched her fingers beat the rhythm of an unheard melody and knew that her mind was a riot of harmonies and movement, not fear. His eyes followed the gentle tightening of lean muscle under her lace sleeve. At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to hold her in the circle of his arms and be led by her music. But he waited.

Eventually, her distant gaze cleared and sought his face, a flush of anticipation rising on her cheek.

She reached for him, excited whispers of what had thrummed in her veins spilling from her lips to his waiting ear. The music had spoken to her, as it always did, but this piece was more beautiful than any before: it’s staves of clouds and starlight, it’s notes undulating birdsong and the rush water falling through rainbows.

She stepped into his waiting embrace and, with a step as light as the brush of a butterfly’s wing, their bodies moving together as one, they began to dance, out into the waiting twilit sky.

 


 

“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Wild & Improbable Tales – Paradise In Flames

Stepping out into the blistering heat, they walked with heads down, oblivious to their fellow travellers. They watched their steps, trying to avoid tripping and falling to the scorching ground below, and so did not see the creature that reared above them, cloaked in the poisonous fumes of their journey.

Heat rippled through the air. Shimmering waves of boiling atmosphere distorting the landscape until it seemed to shift and heave around them: almost alive.

They had dreamed of basking in the sun. After all, they deserved paradise. They deserved that long rest, surrounded by beauty, every need and want met.

Turning up their faces to absorb the warmth of the sun, they didn’t realise that the flames were all around them. They smiled, at first. And then they burned.


“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Wild & Improbable Tales – Celestial Tears

The stars were lonely. For a millennia they had watched life blossom over the planet below and yearned to be a part of it: longed to immerse themselves in the warmth blanketing that lump of rock, rather than hanging in beautiful, cold isolation in the emptiness above.

Humanity gazed up and admired the gentle twinkling bestowed by the stars, not realising those endless flickering lights were celestial tears blinked from heavenly eyes. From Earth’s vantage, the stars were in good company, nestled amongst each other in glittering clusters, surrounded by the reflected glow of their orbiting planets. They could not comprehend the distance from one distant sun to another. Nor could they understand the sense of desolation that such loneliness brought.

Eventually, that stars could take their exile no longer.

They stole down to Earth on sunbeams and disguised themselves in the world. Dust motes glowing in morning light; that distinctive twinkle in a mischievous child’s eye; the sparkling of frost on a winter’s evening; the shimmer of moonlight on still water.

The stars live among us now, and are happy.


“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Wild & Improbable Tales – Beautiful Misfits

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The trees thought they had seen it all. Their collective consciousness had watched the world through its centuries of seasons; observed the heavens wheeling overhead in arcs of millennia-old starlight and moonshine; held their steady gaze when dragons walked the earth; stood tall through all the ages and beheld the emergence of humanity. 

They never watched people too closely as they seemed just another beast whose time had come to rule. More destructive than most who had gone before but the trees knew their own deep-rooted power, and that they would cover the earth once more beyond the age of man. So they simply watched, never really seeing.

One day – a day just like any other – a small group came within the bounds of an ancient forest and set about a picnic. As the trees watched on, they began to realise there was more to this little cluster of humanity than met the eye: the one in the straw hat with a wide smile had onyx tears etched high on their right cheekbone; the one with a sweater slung carelessly about their shoulders moved with such weight and gravitas that the trees themselves seemed drawn towards that strange, charismatic gravity; the one who pulled faces and laughed with abandon had, not hair flowing from their scalp but fine strands of poetry, tied back at the nape of their neck. And then there was the child. The child who stood, with balloon in hand, unseen by the rest of the party, and cast a penetrating stare at the trunk of a nearby oak.

That stare sank down into the well of the world and all of nature sighed to be seen.

It was only the briefest moment in time, but when that motley crew packed up the remnants of their meal and headed back out from beneath the low-hanging boughs, the trees strained to follow and, as one, agreed: what a beautiful bunch of misfits they were.

 


“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Wild & Improbable Tales -Whispers In The Dark

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Cocooned in sleepy warmth, they lay in midnight’s silence, oblivious to the world.

Blankets a tangle around entwined limbs; heads resting close on pillows; fingers unconsciously seeking skin, lost in wonderment, their whispered voices held the cadence of the lapping tide and the hush of a shooting star.

What they spoke of did not matter: hopes and fears; the mundane and the magical; gods and monsters. All that mattered was that moment in which the universe belonged to them alone.

With eyes only for each other, they saw nothing beyond their own slowly curving smiles. They did not see the words they breathed take flight in the night. Did not see their dreams light up and dance above their heads like fireflies. Did not see those little specs of luminescence weave together and hold back the shadows.

The moon outside the window gazed down in awed affection, the tiniest hint of envy in his silvered rays. What a wondrous thing: to build a world from whispers in the dark.

 


 

“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-Golden Tales, I have decided to embark on my own creative writing blog series, “Wild & Improbable Tales”, as a way to write more freely and more frequently. At least once a week, I will choose a card at random from The School Of Life‘s ‘Small Pleasures’ box and use the image and/or writing on the back to inspire a short piece of creative writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

For The Joy Of It

For a long time I have been saying that I want to write. And for a long time, I haven’t. There are all sorts of reasons for that but mainly I never had the time. Which actually means I never made the time. I never made the time because sitting down to write felt like such an indulgence; there were always other things that I ‘should’ be doing. I never made the time because I was convinced I wasn’t actually any good at writing and so what was the point. I never made the time because I was scared: here was a thing I wanted, badly, to do well at. A thing I would love to make at least part of a career out of. But what if I tried and failed? By never actually doing it I could hold onto the daydream, writing odd snippets here and there, but never risking the possibility of discovering it was never meant to be.

You’d have thought I’d have learnt by now: dreams are worth the risk, and sometimes we should try just for the joy of it.

So I have started writing. Not quite daily at this point but more than ever before. I found the key was to let go a little of my fears and doubts; actually, not to do it in the hope that it would come to anything. Not to do it for anything or anyone. Just to write for me. Because I love it. I love the feeling of creating something that wasn’t in the world before. And when I approached it like that I found that the seeds of things that had been rattling round in my head started to grow. I wrote so many poems I stopped counting. And, even more joyfully, I started to write the story that has been in my mind for more years than I care to count.

I had an outline, written and rewritten over several years, and I had an opening to the story, which I wrote about a year ago, but nothing more. Because I stopped. I even liked what I had written, although it needed some editing, but in spite of my outline I just didn’t feel I knew what the story was, so I abandoned it. It was actually my students, and a couple of lovely friends, who encouraged me to pick it back up.

I run a creative writing class at the secondary school where I work (I know, a writer who doesn’t write teaching other people how to write…the irony is not lost on me) and for some time now my students have been asking to read something I had written. So one day I decided to be brave (and yes, it did take a lot of courage to do this – teens are nothing if not direct and, sometimes, brutal with their feedback) and share that opening chapter with them. I did it as part of a session on how to constructively critique other people’s work.

Firstly, I read some of their pieces and, as I always do, gave them feedback, this time trying to demonstrate my thought process: What did I really like and why? Tell them. What did I think had potential and how could it be developed? Tell them and make suggestions. What didn’t feel right in their narrative, why and what might make it feel better? Tell them but also enquire about their choices (as this might change the reading of it), explain why it didn’t feel quite right for me and work in partnership to see how it could be developed. It’s a lovely, collaborative process and the young writers I work with are so full of enthusiasm for writing, and so want to improve, that they are genuinely open to it and take on board feedback with interest and commitment to developing themselves, and their skills as writers. It’s inspirational to watch.

Next came the part where I had to be brave. Enthusiastic though they were to receive their own constructive criticism, they are often reluctant to give it to each other, usually deferring to me to do that part, purely because their class mates are also their friends and they were afraid of hurting one another’s feelings. Hence why I offered my work up as a guinea pig. I did tell a little white lie and assured them I was very used to receiving feedback of all kinds, positive and negative (not the case because I rarely share my writing other than what I post on here) and told them they should be very honest. I promised them my feelings would not be hurt if they didn’t like it (mostly true) and that their honest opinion was more important to me as a writer than any false praise they might want to give me. That was the truth. With a deep (internal) breath I gave them my opening chapter and pretended not to wait on tenter hooks as they read it.

The first person to finish looked at me and said possibly the best thing I could have been told: “It sounds like you, Miss.”

Now something sounding like me is not necessarily praiseworthy but what that meant to me was that she felt it was authentic. And that IS praiseworthy. Some of my fear fell away. Even if they didn’t like it, whatever I had written was true enough to myself that this student recognised me in it. I hadn’t even known that was important to me until that moment. As others finished reading they said they agreed, one commented that it “read like the colour red” – she couldn’t quite explain what she meant but it felt like a compliment! In fact the compliments came rolling in along with requests for the next chapter, please, and I had to steer them back to our critiquing framework. Flattering though the positive feedback was, I wanted their honest and thought out opinions. I wanted their ideas for improvement. And I got them. Tentatively, at first, but eventually with growing confidence they pointed out turns of phrase that resonated with them and ones that didn’t; they suggested alterations to vocabulary choices; they discussed certain sentence structures and whether they flowed as well as they could; they generally proved themselves to be the perfect first readers of my long locked away opening pages. (Well, not quite the first: my mum read them too.)

I made the alterations they suggested and since then not only have I shown those pages to two other people (both adults this time and one of whom, it turns out, is writing a book of his own – we did a pages swap!) but I also picked the story back up with gusto. I now have nearly ten thousand words of the story that has been tucked away for so long. On top of that, I also got up the courage to submit four of my poems to a publishing house, for consideration for an anthology. I have no idea if anything will come of that but it doesn’t matter, because I did it. I wrote the poems for me and I took the chance to share them. That is enough.

I am under no illusions that I will be the next J.K.Rowling. I have no idea whether any of my work will ever be published. But it turns out that it’s not the publishing that makes you a writer. It’s the writing. Just for the joy of it.

Any writers out there: what’s your work in progress? What stops you writing and how do you get over it?