Thank you for visiting this blog site. It's mainly writing-related posts including thoughts, tips, info and psychological aspects of writing. If you felt like following, well that would be great.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Notes from an Autograph Book

This is a version of "I packed my bag", but I packed my autograph book instead. Star-struck from early teens, I have the signatures of most of the pop stars of the early sixties, just pre-Beatles. Even so, my favourite entries are rhymes and comments from mates and other people dear to me. Here is a sample.

My heart is like a cabbage it's easily cut in two.
The leaves I give to anyone, the heart I give to you.

First comes low school, then comes high,
Then comes Jackie with a good-looking guy.
Then comes love and then comes marriage,
Then comes Jackie with a baby in a carriage.

Never kiss a boy whose eyes are brown,
He'll kiss you once then turn you down.
Never kiss a boy whose eyes are grey -
He'll kiss you once then turn away.
But kiss a boy whose eyes are blue -
He'll kiss you once then ask for two!

The teachers are good people, they go to church on Sunday.
They pray to God to give them strength to whack the boys on Monday.

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Two themes emerge from these - love and flogging. It wasn't like that really - honest! There are others which I might post separately, and maybe extracts from my mother's autograph book. Not to mention the pop stars. Unsurprisingly, Adam Faith features fairly largely.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Writers: To Sleep, Perchance to Dream - If Only!

There's so much evidence lately that lack of sleep is bad for our physical and mental health. Performance in everything we need to do can be affected, largely because of less efficient concentration and coordination. For this post, I am wearing my psychologist's hat.

A glance at tweets first thing in the morning throws up a number of problems with sleep - can't drop off, waking in the night, tired in the morning. Waking in the night may be due to outside disturbance, e.g. from young children, neighbours, snoring partners, all of which are hopefully transient. Tired in the morning may be due to disturbed sleep, but also to ...

Difficulty Getting to Sleep
People whose work depends on thinking skills may have particular problems with this. My theory about writers is that their creative minds just keep on, well, creating. Their work output is dependent mainly on creative thinking, and Twitter timings show that they may be planning, writing or editing at any time of the day or even night. Simply trying to switch off the buzzing brain will not work.

One good way round this is to change tack and concentrate instead on unimportant, mundane things which will allow the brain to wind down slowly. Another is to visualise taking concerns out of your brain and into a safe place where they can await your attention. Here is one of my own devised methods for each approach.

Supermarket Sweep
This involves visualisation and simple addition. Think of the supermarket you visit most often. Then imagine collecting a trolley outside, and walking up and down the aisles in your usual order. As you go, pick up any items you like or tend to buy, and place them in the trolley. Estimate their price in multiples of 50p, e.g. cauliflower £1, bananas £1, baguette 50p, Toblerone (my favourite) £2.50p, and so on. Keep a running total as you go (£5.50 so far, zzzzz).

When I've used this, I have never got as far as the checkout before falling asleep. However, it only works if your brain is already whirring.

Pile Them Up
This works well if you have multiple writing-related to-do things on your mind, especially decisions to make about various writing matters. It is less rousing than switching on the light and writing notes. The issues could be sourcing or researching, character name/trait, resolving a plot problem, when to submit, what to enter for a comp, how to phrase the next blogpost even. But it also works for other nagging matters such as choosing someone's gift by next Wednesday, whether to buy an omega 3 & 6 supplement, or which book to start reading next. Here goes:

Imagine a large room, lavishly decorated (for some reason this helps me) but otherwise completely bare. Smooth, antique oak floorboards. You enter the room, carrying all these to-do things as objects in your arms. Take the first, most pressing item, think about it briefly, and then carefully place it on the floor. Walk away slowly, and do the same with each item you are carrying. This should be mentally relaxing, and - oddly - the dumped items seem to be readily accessible in the morning.

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Well I hope one or other of these methods might be of use when you feel tired but can't stop the words and issues buzzing in your brain. I'd love it if anyone would comment, and maybe let me know if either of them helped.