These five phrases really piss me off:
1. Shabby chic
Ugh. Take a piece of furniture, make it look tatty. “Distress” it. Sell it as some sort of ‘lifestyle’ design to people who think it makes their home look cool in some vague bohemian way. A complete oxymoron.
2. Going forward
The most unnecessary and useless waste of words. Whenever you see these two words together, mentally remove them and read the sentence again. See? Makes no difference to the meaning (but vastly improves the sentence).
3. To be honest
Suggests the speaker hasn’t been until now.
4. Key Performance Indicator (KPI)
Corporate wank. No. Just no.
What the fuck does this even mean? It is used to sell products, to demean people’s sexualities, to suggest that what you spend money on and how you look is your life (no doubt for some people that may sadly be true). It is a term one is supposed to buy into. Empty and meaningless.
Did I miss anything out? Share your hated phrases in the comments.
I’m writing a story.
~No, you’re updating your blog about writing a story. Not quite the same thing.
Yes, but it’s just so dark!
No, the story.
I disturb myself sometimes.
~It means you’re getting somewhere. You’ve hit a nerve.
~Look, the things you write about aren’t a literal representation of you. We all have darkness inside us. We all think horrible things. At least you’re not doing them.
~Now, stop pissing about and get back to work.
~You’re very welcome.
The lovely people at New Writing South have, in their infinite wisdom, included Chez Goldberg on their Good Blog Guide. WooHoo! They’ve given me a little internet badge and everything. Dedicated to “inspiring, nurturing and connecting all kinds of creative writers across the region and beyond”, New Writing South are a brilliant resource for writers. Their workshop ‘Stop fucking about and start writing’ looks particularly good and is the kind of ethos I fully endorse 🙂 Check out all the good writerly stuff they have to offer.
Cinemas are one of my all-time favourite spaces. The feel of plush velvet beneath your fingertips, a dark room filled with anticipation, the whir of long red curtains being drawn back to reveal a giant screen. And then…the music, the flickering lights, the sound and pictures so big, so all-encompassing.
Agata Zielinska-Hryn clearly loves it too, because she’s built one beneath her shop in Forest Hill, South London. Doopo Doopo opened in 2012 and is an independent art gallery, boutique and arts hub. It’s home to the Vortex Cinema Club, creative workshops including film-making, oil painting, guitar classes and life drawing. I’d been in several times before popping the question earlier this summer: Have you ever thought of hosting a writer’s workshop here? Yes! she said, that’s exactly what I’ve been looking for! And so The Forest Hill Writers Workshop was born.
Every Thursday night from 7pm – 9pm the newly developed cinema space will be converted into a writers workshop and I’ll be taking writers through their paces in a supportive atmosphere. There will be detailed feedback and inspiring weekly excercises. Writers will write. And laugh. Because laughter is important in these things 🙂
The new workshop begins on 23rd* October and is strictly limited to 12 places. See the Forest Hill Writers Workshop page for more details.
I studied with Stephanie Goldberg for two terms and found her classes dynamic, challenging and hugely enjoyable. The structure of the class was always reliable, allowing time for free writing and shared responses to students work. Her critical feed back was always immensely valuable. My writing grew significantly under her tutelage and I would not hesitate to recommend her classes to writers of all levels.
TO BOOK, POP IN OR CALL DOOPO DOOPO ON 078 4271 8336.
*This post originally stated that the workshop would begin on 9th October. The venue then changed the date and this was updated on 5th October 2014.
Aaaaargh!!! Staring at a blank screen, writing something, deleting it, wondering how you ever managed to complete anything before when the drivel that is coming out of you now is so rancid, the prose so decrepid and puerile that you should be taken in front of the Judge of Writing, court martialled and then shot. You are that judge, of course. The nasty little voice saying nasty little things about what you’re getting down on paper, on screen. You are the “Creative devil” laughing at any attempts you make.
You set yourself a challenge last week to write a blog every day for the month of May. Already you have failed. This is no reason not to get back up and carry on anyway. You have learned this, over the years.
This morning you write three lines about a trip to the Rivoli Ballroom on Saturday night, decide it’s crap, look at Facebook, watch every interview of the entire cast of The Crimson Field on the BBC website and then an interview with the scriptwriter, Sarah Phelps, which leads you to procrastinate further on the BBC Writersroom blog, where you find this: Getting through Writer’s Block: Established television writers share their strategies for getting through writer’s block.
Your favourite tip from this video comes from Toby Whithouse, writer of Being Human and No Angels, who says
What you need to do is to book a room above a pub for about two months time, tell all of your friends there is going to be a reading of your script and I guarantee you, you will get that script written. Because sometimes the only way to overcome writer’s block is to literally push through it.
This tip speaks to you because you are driven by deadlines and fear. Specifically the fear of completely humiliating yourself in front of an audience. It’s the reason why writing workshops are so great – just the idea of reading your work out in front of others forces you to work harder on it, to make it less shit. More importantly, to finish what you start.
As the self-proclaimed Queen of Procrastination, you can sniff out every excuse, every trick, every lie people tell themselves in order to get out of what they’re actually supposed to be doing. When you run the Queer Writers Retreat for example, the first thing you do is get the writers to hand in their mobile ‘phones. You all chat and laugh and eat during the breaks, but when they sit back down in the Writing Room, a hush descends and the gentle tapping of keyboards and scratching of pens takes over. They’ve already agreed their goals for the day, they are there for one reason only. There is no distraction, no escape. It works.
There is of course, what you like to call “Productive procrastination”. Would you get any cleaning done if you weren’t putting off doing something else? The scarier the task, the cleaner the home. In fact, most of the boring chores you do seem to be a result of putting off doing something else. Sometimes you write stuff to avoid writing the thing you feel you’re supposed to be writing. And sometimes that avoidance writing turns out to be far more satisfying. This entire blog post, for example, has been an excercise in procrastination (you were supposed to be writing about Saturday night, remember?).
Be stubborn (you were born that way, you might as well utilise it). Force yourself, allow yourself, to write any old shit. As long as you’re getting something down, it is never a waste of time. You can make it good later. Remember the maxim: Don’t get it right, get it written.
Then get it right.
1. Read. Read a lot. Read everything you can get your grubby little hands on. For years, decades.
2. Live an interesting life. Make terrible decisions. Fall in love with drunken idiots. At crossroads, take the path strewn with fallen trees, pot-holes and gnarled branches clawing at your sleeves.
2a. Alternatively, live a life so excruciatingly dull that you are forced to live in your imagination.
3. Be grateful for your fucked-up family. Emotional blackmail, Olympian feats of denial and traumatic get-togethers are literary gold! Whether you write down everything they do as a coping mechanism or merely revenge, all the raw drama of life is here. If you ever run out of material, you could do worse than telephone your relatives for a chat about what a disappointment you are.
4. Remember that the blank page is nothing to be scared of. Remind yourself of this often. Every day, in fact. One day you might even believe it.
5. Write thousands of words of pretentious bilge. Fill a forest-worth of notebooks with future embarrassment. Fail again and again. At some point, fail better.
6. Shut the door. Sit. Pick up a pen. Repeat steps 4 and 5. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
It goes like this.
In my bag I carry three envelopes. Inside each envelope are little squares of paper. On each square of paper is a word.
Just as the contestants on Countdown choose different sized numbers and use them to get as near to the target as possible, you may choose how many words you would like from envelopes 1, 2 and 3. You may request a maximum of six words. Not all words need to be used.
Leave me a comment with your request and I will give you the words. Once your words have been issued, you have 24 hours to post the resulting poem.
Got it? Great. GO!
*Or ‘Rachel‘, for you modern types
Queer Writers Retreat alumnus Em Fleming blogs about her experience here and publishes one of the brilliant poems she worked on at the retreat. See if you recognise yourself in it 😉
So on Saturday I went on retreat.
You know, I thought I had a terrible attention span but actually I just needed NO PHONE and NO INTERNET. And to be fed and watered all day like a particularly lazy housecat. I didn’t have to think about anything, and because I didn’t have to think about anything my brain kind of unfolded and all the bits that had been hiding or buried under shopping lists and PE kits and appraisal forms and those knickers (I was wondering where they’d gone) – those bits, they reappeared. So I chased them down and now I have some more poetry to show for it. In fact, I finally have enough for that pamphlet I’ve been banging on about for years. Perhaps you will even be able to buy it at some point this year. Certainly I’m planning to go on retreat again. And I…
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I received this lovely feedback from a guest (playwright) of the Queer Writers Retreat 🙂
…realising I’ve barely touched my work since [attending Queer Writers Retreat] and have started to hanker for an ‘away’ space, I’m really starting to get a sense of the value of the opportunity. I’m not a writer by habit but I’m a writer at heart, and that I think is a big part of my problem!
Having a space dedicated to that work and to have other writers working around me gave rise to a relaxed focus. Working alone I find I lack either one or the other in that equation. Luckily all the other writers were of similar minds. In the intimacy of the workspace, this became quite important. I was wondering about the need for a specifically ‘queer’ workshop and realise that aspect probably had a large role to play in creating that sense of ease. I was worried that a queer writing group might be a bit self conscious and seem unwelcoming to people who don’t identify as LGBTI and also whenever I see ‘queer’ anything I’m always half expecting ‘worthy’ and possibly ‘divisive’. However, the sense of openness was important to the work, it turns out. I can see the value in sticking to the label. I’m also 100% sure you couldn’t be unwelcoming. All fears allayed.
It feels almost more like a salon than a ‘retreat’, considering it now. It was a great day – and now I’m going to transcribe my play…”
I was chuffed to bits that he said it was like a salon! 🙂 That’s what I was aiming for – not just a space to write, but a space to share your work and discuss writing and build a community and eat, drink, laugh and be merry.
The next retreat is on Saturday 11th January and there is an earlybird discount of £10 if you book by Christmas Eve. So if you’re still looking for a Christmas present, or you want to pre-empt your New Year’s Resolution to write more – then click here to book.
I finished my 30 Day Challenge on 30th November. It was exhausting, exhilharating, inspiring. My Queer Writers Retreat is up and running (and there’s an earlybird discount if you book before Christmas Eve), this blog is growing steadily and I now have the confidence to play, experiment, have fun with ideas in a way that my perfectionist self warned me against in the past.
And yet. The fear. It’s always there. Lurking.
I teach people free-writing*. I have abseiled off the top of a 500m building, done stand-up comedy, performed to a 200-strong rowdy audience wearing little else but my underwear and a long velvet cape, stood up to bullies. So why does a blank page hold such horror?
I have been re-reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I love this book. Love its humour, advice and wisdom. It’s candour. But most of all, I love the intimacy King creates, as if he is speaking only to me, as if this is just a relaxed conversation between us two. It is simply a joy to be in his company. (Hell, if he was writing about corporate tax law, I’d still lap it up.).
There are a couple of lines, near the end, that I want to screen-print onto a large poster, frame and hang on every wall in my house. To remind me. To remind me what you, and I, and everyone already knows deep down:
The scariest moment, writes King, is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.
Oh Stephen, you speak the truth!
So. Sit. Pick up your pen. And start.
*the art of just getting the fuck on with it
- How To Use Stephen King’s “On Writing” Advice (millieho.net)