Just Who do You Think You Are?

‘The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: “I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!” So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.’

Read more at https://www.marieclaire.co.uk/entertainment/celebrity-quotes-on-impostor-syndrome-434739#3UwtlRtPjiRMVpvH.99

Tina Fey

I want to talk a bit about impostor syndrome. This is something I’ve been fighting a lot of lately. It’s something that all artists face a lot during their careers. That feeling that you’re just not good enough. That you have no right to be doing what you are doing. How dare you write, or paint, or create something new and wonderful. You shouldn’t be doing any of that. Just get up in the morning, go to your regular mundane job, pay your bills and go home.

Suddenly, possible even moments later, you find yourself on top of the world. Your creative juices are flowing and the magic is happening. You know what you’re doing is what you were born to do. Nothing else matters. You could happily throw everything away and just do that thing you love. Of course the reverse is also true. You’ll be mid flow and those doubts creep in. That nagging voice that tells you aren’t good enough. I had this happen recently literally mid sentence. I was working on the second Henrietta Hedgekin story. It was flowing superbly. Every sentence, every word was falling into place. Suddenly, there it was. That feeling that I am absolutely and completely wasting my time. Why was I doing this? I’m no writer. I shouldn’t be doing any of this.

Luckily I have a very good and exceptionally talented artist friend (my best friend) who understood exactly what I was going though. She had been precisely where I was at that moment and she offered the best way to view these episodes is that they are meant to keep us humble. They help us to keep striving. If you face that feeling that you aren’t good enough but you still manage to keep going, then you are doing exactly what you should be doing. It keeps us in check and stops our ego from taking over. When an artist loses that drive, that will to improve and become better than before, that is when you are truly an impostor. So when you feel those doubts, when that voice is screaming at you telling you you’re not enough, you look it straight in the eye and tell it “Maybe not, but tomorrow I will be”. And above all, do not give up doing what it is you love.

Finding Your Style

Every writer has their own style. It’s like a fingerprint. You can tell who the author of a story was by the way the tail starts and grows. By how the characters interact with each other and the world they are in. Stephen King and James Herbert are two of the horror greats but the way they right is very different. Their use of language and scenery differs greatly. Yet both of them manage to keep us hooked on every word. Where does this come from?

Well I’m going to let you into a secret. These styles and ways of writing didn’t happen overnight. The individual style can take years. When you first begin to write, you find yourself imitating your favourite writer. When I first started in what seems like a lifetime ago now, I was very much trying to emulate James Herbert. He was my favourite horror writer and I had been consuming his work like my Shih Tzu, Mabel, eats sausages. Voraciously for those who have never seen a Shih Tzu eating a sausage.

Over time I started to add in bits of other authors, most noticeably H P Lovecraft, the father of modern horror. But things still didn’t feel right. It took me a bit of time before I realised that while my writing was evolving, I was still imitating. I was writing with someone else’s voice and ignoring my own. That was a real eureka moment for me. It was the start of a new chapter. Letting go of the comfy cosiness of other peoples styles and finding my own was scary, I’m not going to lie. But at the same time it was liberating.

Once I let go of the restrictions of other writers I found myself free to truly grow. I was able to create my own worlds and give life to my own characters. For the first time, they truly were mine. That was when I knew that I had become a writer. Not only that but I had come to realise it is not just something we do but something we live. A thing we love and feel. Yes we do become emotionally invested but now it was different. Once you make that leap you find that a part of yourself is in every single aspect of your story. Yes I still have characters that I hate from the second I give them life and I pretty much have a plan for their horrible demise. And sometimes I worry about the state of my own mind when I create them. But then sanity is overrated anyway.

So don’t be afraid to let go and move out of your comfort zone. You have the story inside of you. It is your unique tale and only you can tell it. But it will never be told until you can do so in your own voice.

The Hardest Thing I Have Written

Over the years I have tried my hand at various genres. As most of you who have followed me since the beginning know, I have always learned towards horror and fantasy with a bit of sci-fi mixed in. Well that all changed about a year ago when i decided to change direction completely and have a go at writing a children’s story. I have the say, this is the hardest thing I have ever written. And you know what? I have enjoyed every moment of it.

But surely kids books are easy? They are just short stories aren’t they?

Yes they are short and that’s one of the things that make them difficult. I once attended a lecture at university where the professor said something that has stuck with me: “I wrote 10,000 words because I didn’t have to to write 2,000”. Never has that been more clear to me than now. When I write a scene in say one of the Guardian stories, I can go into great detail. I can get every nuance of every moment because it’s for a mature reader. Now imagine having to get that same level of detail in a fraction of the space to a younger audience. I had always read that children’s books were the hardest genre to get into. Not only is it a very difficult market but the actual challenge of the writing it.

Despite all that I think I’ve found my niche. I love it more than anything else I’ve ever written.

Now you will notice I havent said anything about the actual story. I’m leaving that for another post when things are a bit more polished. I am doing this in collaboration with my very talented best friend who has been a massive support throughout. She has some great ideas for things to make the stories more interactive. It’s a very exciting time.

I think the big take away for me from all this is to never be afraid to have a go at something different. You might just might surprise yourself. Take a chance and get that story out. Writing is about more than just getting the story out of your brain and onto the page. It’s about constantly challenging yourself. About pushing boundaries and exploring new frontiers. So if you find yourself in a bit of a rut, try something new. You never know what you might discover about yourself.

Have You Seen A Spook, Spectre or Ghost?

  This is a special post for my fellow Guerns.

This wonderful island is famous for many things. Not least of all is its rich folklore. Everyone knows the tails of witchcraft and demons that have have haunted our shores over the centuries.

Even today, I bet all of you can think of at least one person you know who has a story of a haunting or a spooky experience. These modern day hauntings are what I am currently looking for. 

In conjunction with the Guernsey Ghost Stories Facebook group, I am creating a collection of modern experiences.  This is where you guys come in.

If you have any personal stories of hauntings, or if you have experienced anything at one of the many local haunted sites, and want to share it, I would love to hear from you. I have created a submission form (see the menu above) to make the process easier.

Submissions will remain open until March 30th, 2016.

I look forward to being terrified.

A Tale of Things to Come

Well here we are, a week away from the big move and as you can imagine, things are a touch chaotic here in writing land.  This doesn’t mean I have been resting on my laurels though.  A writer never truly stops after all.  As Halloween is approaching, I will be releasing a short story to chill the soul and haunt your dreams.

Once we have settled in and things are getting back to normal (or at least what passes for normal around here), I shall be taking a short break from fiction to work on a very special project.  During a recent tidy up, my Grand mother came across her fathers old war diaries.  She has given me permission to go through them and create a record of his journeys as a soldier during the 1940s.

I am very excited to be able to transcribe his journals.  I was unaware of this piece of family history until recently and to be given this opportunity is a great honour.   There is going to be a lot to do but I am looking forward to every minute of it.  It’s not often that one gets to do something like this.

So that, dear friends, is all for now.  I’m off to pack some more boxes with stuff I haven’t seen or used for about 4 years.

Rhetoric – For Arguments Sake

I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent with this post as there is something in social media land that has been bothering me for a long time.  Recent local events have seen a lot of people voicing their opinions on certain topics.  This is a good thing.  Debate of subjects that affect the greater population is always a welcome thing, and indeed the cornerstone of our society.  The problem comes when the debate is not some much well thought out and reasoned arguments, but more like a pack of angry baboons mashing on the keyboard.  The more I see, the more I realize there is a need for rhetoric to be taught as part of the English curriculum.  For the purpose of this post, let us define rhetoric as:

The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques

There is a trend at the moment, that when one is angry and passionate about a subject or event, to immediately go on social media and slap down the first thing that comes into your head.  If you wish to change peoples hearts and minds, then this approach will definitely be counter productive.  A careful and considered argument will get you further than stringing a load of words together in a jumbled rant.  And by jumbled I mean a complete lack of punctuation.

I cannot tell you the amount of times I have seen a full paragraph of words without so much as a full stop to be found.  The worrying side of this is that people don’t seem to see the importance of using things like commas or full stops or even correct spelling.  But I ask you this: How are people supposed to hear your argument if they are unable to read and make sense of it?

That was a rhetorical question by the way.

So what can you do to make get your point across? Well I’m not about to teach a full on class but I will offer these few pointers:

  1. Consider your audience: Who are you trying to convince? Do they already share your views?
  2. Consider counter points: You are going to have people who disagree with you.  Try and consider beforehand what they think and why they may hold those opinions.
  3. Don’t rant: This is a very easy trap to fall into and one we all suffer from at some point.  Avoid name calling and try to be civil at all times.  This can be one of the most difficult parts of a debate.
  4. Spelling and Grammar: This might seem obvious, but I cannot tell you how often I see posts on important subjects that lose all credibility and coherence because of bad spelling or a lack of proper punctuation (or any punctuation).
  5. Proof read:  Before hitting the post button, read it back.  Does it make sense?  If possible, have someone else give it a look over for you.

Of course these are just guidelines and certainly not set in stone.  At the end of the day, you have to decide how important it is to you that your message gets across to people.  If you are just having a moan about how bad the traffic was on the way home today, then this is probably a bit much.  But if you are looking to affect actual change, then please consider the above.  Taking a little bit of extra time can make all the difference.

Autumn is Upon Us…And I’m Glad

The horrible, oppressive mugginess of summer looks to have gone the way of the Dodo, and the glorious coolness of Autumn is upon us at last.

I don’t like summer.  I’m well known for not liking summer or, indeed anything that involves me sweating like a politician caught with identical twins and a family size tub of tutti frutti ice cream.  Now Autumn, that’s a whole different kind of beast.  I don’t know what it is about the season that I like so much.  Is it the cool, fresh mornings? The incredible colours when the leaves begin to turn?  Or is it just that Halloween is just around the corner?

Whatever it is, this seems to be the season I get inspired the most.  Some people see Autumn as a time of ending and decay.  I see it as a renewal.  The old is coming to an end so as to make way for the new.  And with that comes new possibilities and new ways of looking at things.  Oh and pumpkin spice lattes.  I don’t who you are, that is some tasty shit right there.

So what the hell has any of this got to do with the ongoing task of writing?  Well it’s about renewal and rejuvenation. About looking back on the old stories and seeing what can be done to make them better.  And that is what I am currently doing.  As a part of my move to Scrivener, I have been testing out various features with old manuscripts and revamping a few old ideas.  This review of the old has turned out to be great for getting the creative juices flowing again.  I’ve found scribbled notes from long ago that never went beyond the “Hey, I should write that down” stage.  I look back at them now and I can now see directions that I would never have thought of at the time.  I’m very excited.  So much so that I’m hoping to have a little treat for you all by the end of the month.  I say hoping as we are going to be moving house shortly so things might go quiet for a while.

So grab that PSL, wrap a scarf around and don your woolly hat; Autumn is here and it’s going to be a whopper.

When Something Just Doesn’t Look Right

After a lot of back and forth, I have finally switched over to Scrivener.  And I have to say that I absolutely love it.  It’s so nice having everything in one place.  The big thing that I have noticed since the switch is how absolutely horrendous my layout skills have been all these years.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I am working on (amongst other things) a rewrite of Maidens Song.  The Universe has expanded so much that it has become necessary to make some revisions.  But I digress.  As I said, I’ve move my editing platform and as such, I’ve been copying over the original text.  I’ve been shocked at the horrible formatting I’ve been using.   To be honest, it’s not something I’ve really put too much thought into it while writing.  My thought process has been more about getting the words down on paper (metaphoric paper that is).  That is how it should be of course; but as I am now having to dick around getting things looking right before continuing the writing, it will definitely be something that is always going to be a part of the process from now on.

Lesson learned for today.  Time for an early night as I am actually going to be braving the real world tomorrow and attend a formal, black tie event.  Sigh, human interaction….

A Little Bit of a Tease (Maidens Song)

Now this might just be the pain killers talking (my dicky knee is acting up again) but I think you lovely people deserve a little teaser.  As I have mentioned previously, I am working, amongst other things, on a rewrite of the Guardian trilogy.  It’s always amazing to me how you can look at a thing you wrote a while back which seemed so right at the time, and just go “Wow, what the hell was I thinking?!”

So anyway, here is a little bit of a teaser from Maidens Song for you.

The excitement was building within their ranks. It was small at first; just a whisper, slowly growing overtime into a great crescendo. They were ready; their return almost at hand. Soon the creature that called itself mankind would remember its true place in the great order of things.
A wave of energy passed through each demon and monstrous blasphemy. A new feeling, greater than an eternity of anger or the hunger for revenge. It was something more, something unknown to them; this was hope. A mighty cheer spread throughout the pit.

Soon they would be free…
…Soon they would be gods

Lovecraft and Racism: The Ongoing Debate

This week marks the 125th anniversary of H P Lovecrafts birth.  As you all know by now, Lovecraft is my number one author.  As seems to happen around this time every year, the debate over the evident racism in Lovecrafts work has once again raised its ugly head.  So let’s analyse this a little.

Call of Cthulu is often used as an example of the Lovecrafts racist views; and on the surface this would seem to be true.  Professor Angells death caused after he was “jostled by a nautical looking negro” would, by today’s standards, be seen as horrendously racist.  And in fairness, that judgement would probably be right.

Now I have just shown you part of a single line from just one story with absolutely zero context.  Now if you read the rest of this particular work and delve a bit deeper, you will start to notice something.  What initially seems to be racism is more akin to the agoraphobia that was commonplace within the U.S. at the time.  One needs to only look as far as the Chinese Exclusion Act for evidence of the attitudes of the time.

And that is really what it comes down to.  We can’t judge the attitudes of 100 years ago by the standards of today.  If Lovecraft was alive today and writing, his work would probably be very different.  In another hundred years how will our own work be viewed by the people of that time?  What we write is a reflection not only of ourselves, but of the times we live in.

So was Lovecraft racist?

Probably; but no more than anybody else of that time.  That’s not intended as an apologist statement, just a social observation.