Award winning Kent composer Barry Seaman offers an innovative day school series that will appeal to writers, dramatists, music and film lovers, and across the creative spectrum.
Music for Writers 1, on the 25 October, is called Love, War and Trains, and explores the connections and relationships between poetry, verse drama and music. This Day School will be of interest to creative writers and music enthusiasts, and anyone intrigued by the way that words and music can be combined to create drama and emotion. The vivid and imaginative use of language is discussed using a variety of dramatic works that include Samuel Beckett’s Words and Music, and atmospheric verse dramas for radio that include Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas and the extraordinary Love, War and Trains by celebrated author Ian McMillan. Ways that writers, poets and composers work together will be studied and celebrated.
On November 22, Music for Writers 2: Emotion, Music and Moving Image looks at the ways music can be used to express and convey emotion and atmosphere when combined with the medium of film. What is the relationship between sound and image? Using case studies that include films such as The Go-Between (Joseph Losey), Last Year in Marienbad (Alain Resnais) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Psycho, these issues will be explored and examined.
Both Day Schools, which run from 10am, – 4pm, cost just £29.50.
To book please contact April Doyle via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01227 863451.
Growing up in the 60s and 70s it was a treat after school to stop by the corner shop and buy a penny’s worth of sweets. Lemon bonbons were my favourite. They were scooped out of the huge jar and carefully weighed out, measured to the value of a penny and then placed in a paper bag.
Fast forward around 40 years. I’m a big fan of the US TV series Parks and Recreation, a wonderfully observed, funny, warm character comedy which centres around the employees of the parks and recreation department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Season 2, currently on BBC 4, featured an episode in which office staff were invited to produce a design for a mural contest. Declaring he has no interest or talent in art, the seemingly shallow character called Tom decides to cheat and approaches a professional designer to do the work for him. Believing art to be simply another commodity, he requests “20 dollars worth of art”. I laughed out loud at this. (The irony is that he later falls in love with the abstract work produced, forming a deep emotional connection with his piece of art).
It got me thinking about how we measure the creative process in monetary terms. How do we /can we value art? And our time as creative producers? I wonder how many artists have had clients asking how much art they can get for £10? £100? £1000? Interestingly, commission guidelines for composers are often based on cost per minute of music, and writers can be paid per word for articles and features.
My e-books are priced between £1.95 – £3.98. Many e-books cost just 99p. They could have taken 6 months or several years of work to produce. What else can you get for £1.95? Not even a cappuccino. Is my latest book worth less than that?
Pricing and charging is a tricky arena. Especially since creatives often do a lot of work gratis (and are often expected to do stuff for free). I’ve done plenty for free – sometimes willingly and happily if I know that funding was a problem, other times not so much. What is my time worth? If no-one pays me is my time worthless? Would you ever assume that a plumber or mechanic or solicitor will work for free?
The arts make money. A recent report in the Guardian highlighted the fact that, “Analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows that the arts budget accounts for less than 0.1% of public spending, yet it makes up 0.4% of the nation’s GDP.
The report is published amid fears that the arts will take another big hit when George Osborne announces his spending review in June.” (Click link below to read the article).
We are all consumers. But, as a creative, how do you value your time? And that of other creative producers?
I know, I know; who isn’t? Go into any overpriced coffee-delivery chain-pit in the world and you’ll be able to spot at least three people with Moleskine notebooks, or typing on Macs, who when prompted will spew words at you about their novel. About how it explores the deeper significance of caramel biscotti, or it’s about non-conventional love dodecahedrons in tribes of scholars living in log cabins in Alaska, and every character is called Jim, even the women, because conventional naming is just holding us back, man.
These people will usually be wearing tweed ironically or skinny jeans un-ironically and all of them will be plastered with that smug look that makes your rage-glands twitch. Some of them might even close their eyes as they describe a scene from their novel in great detail, like it’s transporting them to their own personal Nirvana and they can’t bear to look upon the real world while they frolic in it. This is your cue to punch them as hard as you can right in their awful neck, pour their mocha-frappe-London-fog-flat white-fuckwit-latte onto their Macbook (because it will be a Macbook) and run, howling, into the misty night.
Except in November, when you might just spot a nomadic tribe of Wrimos, bedecked in nothing but pieces of fruit; weary, harrowed eyes; frantic caffeine jitters and normal clothes.
‘Wrimos’ are what people refer to themselves as when they are participating in National Novel Writing Month, which I’ve mentioned before. (You can see it by clicking the second instance of the word ‘here’ in this sentence, here.)
So, as I say, I’m writing a novel, but far from taking me years to craft a pretentious masterwork with infinite layers of detail, none of them funny, I have precisely thirty days to write 50,000 words. Any less and I have not ‘won’, any longer and I have not ‘won’. I have one of the harshest deadlines ever levied on a person, and it’s self-inflicted. Not just by me, either; there are currently thousands of Wrimos busily scribbling or tapping away at their own 50,000 word minimum and at this exact point in time (which I suppose is in the past, from your perspective) there have been precisely 942,626,284 words logged by everyone combined. To put that into perspective, the entire Harry Potter series comprises some 1,084,958 words.
We are eight days into November.
It’s mind-boggling the amount of people who throw themselves at this challenge, and the enthusiasm with which they metaphorically flagellate themselves with this ridiculous deadline.
So far I’m 7,845 words in, which at this stage is ok but not great. The average by now is about 11,000 but I spent a weekend doing things with my friends and a day training someone at work (I essentially have to write at work, since it’s all I do during the week), which is three of my days spent not writing at all. A couple of days I wrote about 1000 words, some days nearer to 2000. I’m writing a near-future-sci-fi-murder-mystery. Not by conscious choice; it’s just that when I started writing my main character (a journalist. Write what you know.) found himself at a crime-scene and some facts didn’t click together properly. I thought I was going to be writing a pulp sci-fi drabble, all smooth chrome spaceships and laserguns and whathaveyou. I’ve ended up with a subcity slum under London, twenty minutes into the future in a subtly totalitarian police-state.
That’s the trouble with this kind of writing. There’s no time to force your story back onto the track you picked for it. It’s a brilliant exercise in compromise. For example, there’s a character who I intended to be throw-away, maybe two or three lines of dialogue, but she’s ended up building a nest in my head because I like her so much. I have resolved to kill her at some point, purely so she doesn’t derail the story. Her fate is sealed, as far as I can tell, but characters can be fickle.
There’s also the need to kill your inner editor. If a sentence is clunky or overwrought you have to leave it. There’s no time. You can’t listen to the voice in your head telling you something is stupid. I had to slip in a justification for something that happened pages later because I couldn’t go back. That’s another interesting exercise; you have to make things fit together coherently without being able to go back and rewrite sections. Murder-mystery lends itself to this, luckily: Agatha Christie used to just write the whole story and pick the least likely character to be the murderer, making all the evidence fit together right at the end.
The last thing I wanted to discuss before I stop writing this and go back to writing that is that I’ve gone bloody mental.
Only really in terms of writing (maybe you’d noticed?), but still it’s almost a problem. For example, I was just skimming my work and noticed I’d written the word ‘corners’ as ‘carners’, but instead of actually realising there was a problem I proceeded to read the rest of the paragraph giving the voice in my head an Irish accent.
I spent an entire paragraph explain how ‘regarding’ and ‘looking at’ are different.
I was physically unable to stop myself from writing an awful pun, then giggling at it like a schoolgirl.
One of my recent Tweets reads: ‘The Information Superhighway has no cycle-lane.’ I don’t remember why.
While typing the above sentence literally milliseconds ago I put my electronic cigarette down and now I have absolutely no idea where it is.
I’m not sure if I’m coming out of this unscathed, but at least I’m having fun.
That’s 978 words I could have typed for my novel. Oh god, the deadline is coming! It’s almost here!
A dear friend recently reminded me that I once wrote in a cupboard.
In a previous home I rented, space was very limited but the bedroom had a large walk-in wardrobe. Since my clothes only took up a fraction of the space, I realised my computer desk would fit in perfectly, with a stool tucked underneath and I could close the doors on it. This became my writing space, and very successful it was too. I was both prolific and productive during that time.
When I got a new pc with a small flat screen, I decided that maybe I would be even more productive if I relocated to the downstairs living space, wedging the desk between my piano keyboard and the TV. If I wanted to write, I only had to move from the sofa to the chair. One stride! Had to be even less effort than going up stairs? Big mistake, but it was months before I realised this. It was much harder to focus in this environment and too easy to leave the TV on and get distracted. My output dropped.
Yet, in the snug and encompassing cupboard I felt safe enough to write. When I feel protected, there is no need to worry about what is happening in the world around me – I can then safely enter the creative space. I realised that in order to write, I need to feel secure in the outer world before I can enter the inner.
Her trilogy of Matty Horse and Pony Adventures books for pre-teens and teens (and nostalgic older readers!) are available for Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. All profits from these stories are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.
Matty and the Moonlight Horse is FREE to download until 23rd October 2012.
“As a creative I can speak for most of us and say that often our motive is not money, it is to make a difference in the world.” Natasha Steer
This statement, from Natasha’s post on Networking Vs Making Friends, really struck a chord with me about why creatives create.
When I hear about best-selling authors making a fortune I envy the fact they can then give lots of money to charity. Writing can be a powerful force for change. But could it also offer a pathway to giving? I thought about how I could contribute more. I could publish my work and donate any royalties to a charity I cared about. And, rashly, because of my motives, I disregarded a lot of practical advice, believing it didn’t apply. Of course, whatever your reasons for publishing, if you want to raise money from it, then it is always a business decision, as I have since learned.
Having been traditionally published for over 30 years, and with 20 years plus experience in marketing, you would think I would have an awareness of what is involved. That’s what I thought. Funny how you can become blinkered…
I had decided to publish three of my backlist titles for the kindle to raise funds for Redwings Horse Sanctuary, who rescue and care for neglected, abandoned and abused horses and ponies.
I commissioned a professional Medway-based designer, Klaus Hartleben, to create my cover designs as this is the first thing that potential buyers will see. For a digital book, Amazon is your shop window. Because I was donating all profits from my books to charity, I decided that using the Amazon “free” days to promote the books would defeat the object of the fundraising. ButI have been advised by several professionals that if Book 1 is free for a while (and readers enjoy it) they are more likely to buy the next two books in the series. So later this month, I will be offering Book 1, Matty and the Moonlight Horse, free for 5 days.
Similarly, I ignored all the advice I read on pricing strategy as part of the marketing plan because the money was going to charity and I wanted to raise the maximum amount from each sale. But comparing the prices I am charging to other similar titles, my books cost a lot more. So now I am tweaking the prices and testing the market to see what works best.
No sales = no funds for the horse sanctuary. So whether your motives are to do something good or to make money to live, I now understand the rules are the same. Be businesslike.
Her trilogy of Matty Horse and Pony Adventures books for pre-teens and teens (and nostalgic older readers!) are available for Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. All profits from these stories are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.
We’re fast approaching November, which is important for a number of reasons; It’s almost December, which means Christmas and New Year’s Eve are coming up, bonfire night is always good fun and it’s National Novel Writing Month.
Admittedly, if you’re not a writer the last one probably isn’t that important to you, but for those of us enamoured with words it’s a pretty huge deal.
A quick jaunt to NaNoWriMo.org lets you know what’s going on: you are encouraged, by what is essentially a charity, to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Any genre, any plot, almost anything you want (although I think erotic fiction is out, I’m not sure) in thirty days and nights.
This is a tall order, as anyone will tell you; some people, usually the less writerly-types, will baulk completely when they spot ’50,000 words’, but it’s a fantastic creative exercise in that you essentially have the freedom to do whatever you want and a very tight deadline in which to do it. You must cast off all frivolous thought in order to produce better frivolous thought. Interesting.
I haven’t done one yet. I signed up (for free) just after last year’s ended, so I’m looking forward to this year’s immensely.
Here are my worries, though:
Do I start planning the story in my head now, a month before writing begins, or do I wait until November 1st and fully commit to dreaming up, planning and writing a novel in exactly one month?
How can I split my time effectively to make sure I maximise the amount of words I write per day? Should I splurge 10,000 in one coffee-fuelled all-night binge? Or should I do a more manageable couple of thousand every other day or so?
It’s a lot to think about.
I urge you to take a look at it anyway, even if you don’t consider yourself to be writer. You never know what may come flying out of your head when you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and everyone has a story to tell, whether they think they do or not. Don’t be put off by the projected word-count; it’s not set in stone after all and as most writers will tell you, if you hit on something you really like, a scene, a character or a whole story, you’ll eventually glance at the clock and notice it’s four in the morning and that you’ve written sixteen pages. You’ll also be dimly aware that you’re starving and that you have to be up for work in four hours.
It’s a labour of love.
I look forward to reading yours.
By James Bovington
Now I must ask something of you:
I have awful trouble naming characters. I try to avoid using the names of people I know, on the off-chance they think I based the whole character on them (which is only sometimes true), so I’d very much appreciate it if the lovely readers of Creatabot (or the lovely contributors, anyone really) could leave me some suggestions down in the comments below. I’ll probably even credit you as ‘The Namer’ or ‘The Name Giver’ or some such needlessly grandiose title.
That’s the prevailing notion among the ‘normals’, anyway. By ‘normals’ I mean people who don’t consider themselves artists or ‘creatives’, although I think Mr. Teller, of Penn and Teller fame, put it best when he said art is “…whatever we do after the chores are done.”
The most common conception of an artist is a brooding figure in a dark room, slashing yesterday’s paintings with a steak knife. It hasn’t been helped by the sheer number of artists ‘back in the day’ that committed suicide or spent their lives in self-inflicted exile and hermitage, or the vast number of people these days who seem to think that by pretending to be psychologically damaged or dark they can join some exclusive ‘Artist’ club and their work, no matter how lazy or bad, will be somehow ‘valid’.
Enough inverted commas. All of that is wrong anyway.
What some people see as loathing directed inwards is in fact something entirely positive. Here’s an example from my own life:
I used to be rubbish. I was a terrible writer; an ok poet, but my prose was bad, plain and simple. Reading back through some stuff I found fairly recently proves this to me. I’m not going to post any here, it’s too painful, but trust me. When I see the kind of dreck I used to put out it makes me ashamed and angry. This is where the disconnect happens between ‘creative’ minds and others; the creative doesn’t see that as a negative emotion reflected on oneself, they see it as a negative emotion cast solely on the article in question. It’s a realisation that you used to lack the skills you now have, and that you have improved and, crucially, will continue to do so.
I’m pretty sure a few years down the line I’m going to come across a notebook filled with scribblings from around now-ish and hate them with a passion.
I know exceptional artists who basically refuse to draw because they aren’t ‘good enough’. This might be a confidence issue, but I know these people, so I know it isn’t. It’s a desire to constantly improve. An attitude that is entirely healthy for a creative person. If you have a set point in your mind where you think ‘I want to be THIS good’, you’ll eventually reach it (slowly, I might add) and then stagnate. If your desire is to improve on your work all the time, you can only get better. When struggling uphill the only place you can end up is on top, so to speak.
The most important thing to remember is that people change, and that includes you. You might really like a certain style of painting one year and then find yourself thinking it’s awful the next. Your psychological state is never the same as it used to be because you learn to deal with, or let go of, issues that used to inform your art. Here’s an experiment you can try if you’re lucky enough to have left puberty behind;
Look through some of the stuff you did during that period of personal turmoil. How much of it would you say is empirically ‘good’? 10%? None of it?
Exactly. That’s one of those periods of life where everything that is ‘you’ is jostling with what you thought was ‘you’, or what you think ‘you’ should be. Your personality is testing the waters, as it were, and art is a reflection of self.
As a result it’s going to be all over the place, some good, most bad, just because your whole self is throwing itself around trying to get a feel for the place. I know the majority of my own pubescent scribbling were confused, self-absorbed and downright bad, and it’s a good thing I know that because that has let me fix those habits over the intervening years.
So, in case you skipped to the end for a swift summary, I’d point out that what allegedly non-creative people are imagining when they hear you describe your own work with flippant ‘Oh, that was shite’-style remarks is entirely wrong, but by no means illogical, it’s just that they haven’t grasped the mindset that lets somebody critique their previous efforts.
It’s always worth adding ‘I’ve learned what to avoid’ or something to that effect, to let them know what you actually mean.
And to you ‘non-creatives’ (even though you don’t really exist), just remember; we don’t hate ourselves. We hate our work.
There’s a big difference.
By James Bovington
P.S. I find that it’s probably for the best to think the word ‘Maybe’ after every sentence of this article to achieve the best understanding of what I mean.
Fear of the unknown. Is that what is so daunting about writing those first few words? Why is that blank space so intimidating?
Page fright. A writer’s nightmare. The evil twin of procrastination. You’ve done battle with the big P and now you are poised to dazzle with your wordcraft skills, your pearls of insight. But wait – you hold back. Will you censor your thoughts and strangle your darlings before they get the chance to draw breath? What are we afraid of? Being judged, criticised? Not being good enough?
Creation is a mysterious process.
As a younger writer, I would spend ages staring at that white page (we used pen and paper or typewriters in the 70s!), digging deep for inspiration, wanting the words to be perfect immediately. I would get everything straight in my head before committing it to paper.
I’ve often read advice for writers that suggests writing anything to fill that space, to overcome the self-censoring instinct. Later, you can edit what you have written and mould it into something that satisfies you. This works for me. The advent of technology has changed the way I compose and I can write my novels in whatever order I wish. If I am in the mood to work on that action sequence in Chapter 9, I will. If I feel more reflective, I will write the complex emotional exchange between the main characters in Chapter 3. Oh, the joys of the cut and paste tool on a word processor!
The way in which we work, the medium used, does affect what we produce. I love the freedom and flexibility that my laptop offers me. If I want to change the middle section of my story, I can do so without having to type the whole lot out again from the beginning. Bliss! I approach the writing like constructing a patchwork quilt.
But when I use pen and paper, my thought processes are different. I work inside my head more, and will cover the white space with scribbling, diagrams, lines and arrows, visually setting out the connections. I probably dream the story more in advance. And I love using white space to create poetry, which for me is both visual and musical.
When I teach writing workshops, I generally get participants to use paper and pen, which for many students is a bit of a novelty, especially the IT generation, because it offers possibilities that may not have been previously considered. The results are always exciting. Especially when students have no more than five minutes to complete the first workshop exercise. Pressure, whether real or imagined, can be a useful motivator.
So, after we have slain the fiery dragons of Procrastination and Page Fright, what other obstacles await us as we continue our journeys on the path of creation?
In a previous post I quoted author Jonathan Franzen, and do so again as his views are thought provoking. Regarded as one of America’s greatest living novelists, he is not a fan of the ebook.
“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change.”
When I first read this quote I immediately thought, what a strange thing to say. An ebook is forever. Once it’s out there, it’s there until the writer takes it down. A printed book only exists while it is in print. And paper and ink can rot, burn, fade and be physically destroyed. Therefore lost in that way.
Then I thought some more about permanence/impermanence. When it comes to matters digital, different formats need different hardware to read. We have a choice of formats – kindle, kobo, nook – to name a few, that all vary. But if you can read, you can read a print book without needing some special device.
And of course, some digital formats become obsolete. We only have to think about Amstrad (my first proper computer!), cassette tapes, video now replaced by dvd (which will undoubtedly disappear in time). Content on these formats has been lost.
When I started writing, my work was stored on big floppy disks, then smaller versions for the Amstrad (not compatible with any other format!), then pc floppies, and memory sticks. Now we can store data on wafer thin cards and out there in the cloud. All these changes in the space of a relatively few years. So now I can get a handle on what Franzen is saying. And it is so easy and cheap to alter digital content compared to amending a printed copy of a book.
Personally, I am a fan of both formats. I love printed books and I love my kindle. I’ve also read extended pieces on my blackberry. I can’t help wondering what the future will hold…….
By Jane Ayres
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